The sentencing of Chanel Lewis, 22, the Brooklynite who was convicted of the August 2016 Spring Creek Park murder and sexual assault of 30-year-old jogger Karina Vetrano earlier this month, came to a halt Wednesday.
Defense attorneys for Lewis filed a motion against three jurors for misconduct after a fourth juror claimed that there was pressure from the others to come up with a quick conviction against the 22-year-old.
The jurors who felt pressured to convict spoke under conditions of anonymity and said they did not have enough time to rewatch a video that was two-to-four hours long that could have hinted at Lewis being coerced into a confession. A few others said that based on DNA-evidence they believed he murdered the victim, but there was not enough information to charge him for sexual assault.
Legal Aid attorneys Robert Moeller and Julia Burke had previously called into question the NYPD holding Lewis for 11-hours before he confessed to the 2016 murder.
This resulted in a hung jury in an earlier trial that was deadlocked in November 2018.
The 22-year-old was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in the 2010s, according to former school officials. After his diagnosis, he attended Martin De Porres High School, a school for students with emotional and behavioral problems in Rockaway Park.
If convicted of first-degree murder, second-degree intentional murder, second-degree felony murder and first-degree sexual abuse charges he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to the DA’s office.
Chief Assistant District Attorney John Ryan was proud of the verdict in the retrial on April 1.
“For nearly six long months this woman’s murder remained a mystery,” said Ryan. “But thanks to the continued hard work and persistence of detectives with the NYPD – assisted by members of the Queens District Attorney’s Office – a suspect was apprehended. Last year, a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict and the trial ended with a mistrial. Today, following five hours of deliberations and careful consideration of all the evidence, the jury found Lewis guilty.”
Despite some jurors claiming that the deliberations weren’t made under careful consideration, the DA’s office is willing to have another hearing on April 22, but prosecutors are steadfast in their belief that there was no jury misconduct and Lewis will be convicted on April 23.