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Chanel Lewis, convicted in Karina Vetrano murder, gets life in prison

"I'm sorry for the family's loss, but I didn't do this," Lewis said at the sentencing.

A Queens judge Tuesday morning sentenced a Brooklyn man convicted of murdering Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano in August 2016 to life in prison without parole. (Credit: News 12 Long Island; Jeff Bachner)

A Queens judge Tuesday morning sentenced a Brooklyn man convicted of murdering Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano in August 2016 to life in prison without parole, in a case that grabbed national attention and triggered a massive homicide investigation.

Chanel Lewis' sentencing came just a few hours after Queens State Supreme Court Judge Michasel Aloise rejected a last-ditch attempt by the Brooklyn man's attorneys to get the guilty verdict tossed.

Aloise gave Lewis, 22, the maximum sentence for first-degree murder after an emotional morning in which Vetrano’s parents and siblings read heartfelt victim impact statements to the court.

"That monster killed four people the night of August 2, 2016," Phil Vetrano, the victim's father, read from a prepared statement. "One of us is in heaven but the other three walk the earth as zombies, just waiting to die and to be with Karina again.”

Lewis addressed the court and maintained his innocence.

“I am innocent," he said. "I am sorry for the family’s loss but I didn’t do it.”

In a statement, The Legal Aid Society said it will appeal on Lewis' behalf.

"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 statement read. "This was done without any concern for Mr. Lewis’s Constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial."

A jury on April 1 convicted Lewis, 22, of first- and second-degree murder, as well as sexual abuse at his retrial for the August 2016 killing of Vetrano, 30, as she jogged alone in a park near her home. His first trial in November ended in a mistrial after jurors couldn’t agree on a verdict.

Defense allegations of juror irregularities before the verdict failed to convince Aloise during a two-hour hearing Monday. Lewis faced a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.

Under New York appellate precedents, Lewis' defense attorneys had an uphill battle in trying to get the verdict set aside on juror misconduct grounds. Their main ammunitions were an affidavit and court testimony Monday from Juror No. 4, identified in court as Christopher Gooley, 31, a theatrical producer and actor.

Gooley had earlier given the defense an affidavit with a number of allegations against other jurors.

The panel came down with its verdict against Lewis after five hours of deliberations.

Lewis was found guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree felony murder and first degree sexual abuse.

Prosecutors with the Queens District Attorney's Office presented evidence over a two-week period to the jury. The key elements to the prosecution case were two confessions Lewis gave to investigators as well as DNA from Vetrano’s neck and cellphone, which was deemed by a forensic expert to be a match to Lewis.

Other evidence included graphic crime scene and autopsy photos that caused onlookers in the courtroom to gasp and some jurors to appear visibly upset. Vetrano's parents cast their eyes down when the photos were displayed in the trial.

DNA found under Vetrano’s fingernail was determined by experts at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to have a high statistical probability of being from both her and Lewis, rather than some unknown person.

The defense maintained that Lewis’ confessions had been coerced and that the DNA evidence was ambiguous or unreliable. The defense said Lewis was the victim of a rush to judgment by police and sloppy investigative work.


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