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Queens Chronicle

Judge postpones the sentencing of Chanel Lewis

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Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2019 2:27 pm

An unnamed member of the jury that convicted the accused killer of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano is now claiming there was misconduct during deliberations.

Defense lawyers for the 22-year-old Brooklyn man found guilty earlier this month in the racially charged murder case asked Wednesday morning that the judge set aside the guilty verdict against Chanel Lewis.

News that one juror was alleging misconduct on the panel came moments before Lewis was set to be sentenced caught just about everyone in the courtroom by surprise.

The specifics of the misconduct charge are contained in a signed affidavit from the juror that was immediately sealed by Queens State Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise, the judge in the case.

The judge cautioned lawyers for both the defense and the Queens District Attorney’s Office not to discuss publicly the contents of the affidavit.

“I don’t want to see any leaks in the newspapers,” Aloise warned the lawyers.

The judge set Monday morning for a full hearing, when the juror will tell his or her story about what went on the jury room during deliberations.

It was the latest twist in the headline-grabbing murder case that has hung over Howard Beach since the body of 30-year-old Vetrano, a speech pathologist who’d gone jogging in Spring Creek Park just before sundown on Aug. 2, 2016, was discovered by her father in the high weeds.

The jury in an earlier trial was seriously  split on the question of Lewis’ guilt, causing a mistrial.

The jury at his second trial took just five hours to find him guilty, a surprisingly short deliberation for a case that involved complicated testimony about DNA evidence and police procedures.

Prosecutor Brad Leventhal told the court he could have asked the judge to dismiss the defense motion out of hand. Instead, he agreed to let the dissenting juror testify on Monday “in the interest of justice, so the court and the public can see this was a valid and good verdict.”

Lewis’ mother, Veta, was accompanied to court by about 30 supporters, including Assemblyman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) and her pastor, the Rev. Kevin McCall, who led a prayer circle in the courthouse corridor before the hearing began.

The group left the courtroom chanting “Justice for Chanel” after the postponement.

On the courthouse steps, where more than a dozen cops had been stationed throughout the morning in case of demonstrations, Lewis’ mother told reporters: “Chanel is innocent.”

“We don’t want justice delayed,” Barron said at the impromptu news conference. “We want justice to happen. Chanel should be liberated on Monday.” 

Karina’s parents, Phil and Cathi Vertano, who were set to give victim impact statements in court before Lewis’ scheduled sentencing, showed no emotion when the postponement was announced and left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.

Lewis faces a potential life sentence without the possibility of parole.

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