Chanel Lewis was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano Tuesday.
The sentence, handed down by Judge Michael Aloise following a tumultuous 24 hours in his courtroom, came after emotional statements from the victim’s family. The Legal Aid Society, which represented Lewis during his legal odyssey, vowed to appeal the case.
“While there is no denying that Karina Vetrano’s death is tragic and that her family and friends suffered a great loss, every aspect of this case, from the police investigation to jury deliberations, was propelled by a desire to convict at all costs,” The Legal Aid Society said in a statement. “This was done without any concern for Mr. Lewis’s Constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial. We will appeal this case to the Appellate Division to secure Mr. Lewis the justice he deserves.”
Lewis, 22, was found guilty of committing the Aug. 2, 2016, murder and sexual assault of Vetrano, 30, who was beaten and choked while jogging in Spring Creek Park just blocks from her home. He was arrested and charged six months after it occurred, tied to the homicide through DNA evidence.
The first-degree murder verdict handed down against Lewis on April 1 was reached at the end of his second trial, which came nearly five months after a mistrial was declared in the first case just before Thanksgiving 2018 due to a deadlocked jury.
Lewis was set to be sentenced last Wednesday but the judge postponed it after his defense team filed a juror’s claim of jury misconduct.
According to court documents, on the day the Vetrano parents testified, one juror allegedly said to another, “Well, I have my mind made up, and I hope you do, too.”
In the same affidavit, two jurors allegedly spoke of their own experiences as either a rape victim or as a prior juror in a rape trial as the jury evaluated trial evidence in the case. The juror also complained of feeling pressure about time; when asking to review the confession tape, some of the jurors said, “Do you really need to see it again? It’s going to take [time] and we’re going to be here till 1 a.m.”
The prosecution said it had affidavits from three jurors denying any misconduct took place. Judge Aloise agreed and scheduled Lewis’ sentencing for April 23.
After the hearing, tempers exploded on the steps outside the courthouse, as Lewis family spokesman Chris Banks accused Judge Aloise of running a kangaroo court in his comments to reporters.
“He’s a clown and this is a circus,” Banks said. “My client did not receive a fair shake.”
The mother of Chanel Lewis was furious.
“Shame on the judge,” Veta Lewis said. “My son is innocent from day one. I feel the [Vetranos’] pain because they lost a daughter, but I, too, lost a son and my son is not the killer.”
She was drowned out by a crowd of supporters chanting, “Go find the killers!”