Unfair trial?

Guilty verdict for convicted killer of Queens jogger Karina Vetrano tainted by jury controversy

Karina Vetrano and Chanel Lewis

The trial of a Brooklyn man who was found guilty of raping and killing 30-year-old Karina Vetrano has been called into question after one of the jurors claimed he was bullied and coerced during deliberations. Despite this, the conviction of Chanel Lewis was upheld, and on Tuesday, he was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Speaking anonymously to the New York Times, the juror said he was the sole holdout on a jury that was ready to convict Lewis of first-degree murder and sexual abuse. He claimed that the jury foreman told them that he had concluded Lewis was guilty by the second day of the trial — a violation of the judge’s orders that they not discuss the case ahead of deliberations.

While in deliberations, the juror said, he tried to send a note to the judge asking how long they would have to stay that evening — only for the foreman to grab the paper and rip it up. After spending 12 hours in the courthouse, he said, he grew anxious that he would be held past 11 P.M. and reluctantly joined the rest of the jury in delivering the guilty verdict.

The case also faced criticism for dubious methods used in obtaining DNA evidence during the investigation of the August 2016 homicide. After investigators found DNA on the body that analysts said likely belonged to a black man, the police moved to collect DNA samples from hundreds of black men arrested in parts of Queens and Brooklyn. The defense had argued that the DNA evidence found against Lewis could be explained by something as simple as Vetrano touching a surface that Lewis had also touched before her death.

A videotaped confession in which Lewis admits to beating Vetrano had also been called into question, as the defense team noted that it was obtained from the visibly confused suspect after 11 hours in police custody. According to the holdout juror, the jury never even saw the confession video due to technical difficulties in the courtroom.

The first trial for Lewis ended in a hung jury after several jurors said that Lewis’s confession appeared coerced and the DNA evidence tainted.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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