QUEENS, N.Y. — Leaders of several community groups on Tuesday called on Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz to reopen the case against Chanel Lewis, who was convicted of murdering jogger Karina Vetrano.
Vetrano, 30, was running on a park trail in Howard Beach when she was attacked, sexually abused and strangled to death on Aug. 2, 2016, according to police.
Now, nearly 40,000 people have signed a petition calling on Katz to refer the case to the Conviction Integrity Unit, which investigates whether a case should be reopened, and release Lewis on bail during the investigation. The leaders of several advocacy groups delivered the petition to Katz’s office on Tuesday.
Even in the face of DNA evidence, there are still voices of doubt surrounding Lewis’ conviction.
The groups leading the push for reconsideration on Lewis’ behalf say there are several factors in his case that suggest he may be innocent or was wrongly convicted.
The groups alleged there is evidence pointing to a history of prosecutorial misconduct by prosecutor Brad Leventhal and raised concerns of racial profiling by police during Lewis’ arrest.
They also pointed to a mid-trial disclosure of significant scientific evidence and the defense’s assertion Lewis’ confession was coerced by police.
“We live in a world of technology now. Chanel Lewis is convicted of a murder. How can a man walk into Howard Beach, kill this young lady, and not be seen on any camera or cellphone anywhere?” asked community activist Mike Thomas. “It’s unconscionable, it makes no sense,” he said, urging the DA to “get it right.”
“We want this overturned, and we want a new trial,” he said.
Vetrano’s parents — Phil and Kathy — have never wavered from their belief of who killed their daughter while she jogged, alone in a marsh filled park near their family home.
Still, Lewis’ supporters hope the momentum of petition will compel Katz to take another look at this case.
The Queens district attorney’s office declined to comment on the petition Tuesday morning.