Sometime ago, I wrote about Chanel Lewis, the accused killer of jogger, Karina Vetrano. The murder took place back in 2016 and about six months later, the NYPD arrested Lewis and charged him with murder and almost immediately, I was sure they didn’t have the right guy. Chief among my concerns was that neither physical evidence nor eyewitness testimony led the police to him, a suspicious cop did. That was my first red flag and now that the case ended in a mistrial and a new trial is set to begin later this month, I have a couple more to wave:
“This woman put up a ferocious fight, right to the end. She was beaten quite severely, which would suggest she put up a big fight,”
– Chief of Detectives, Robert Boyce
The above description is based on the fact that when Ms. Vetrano’s body was found, she was covered in scratches, had broken teeth and was strangled with such force, that the killer’s hand print was marked into her neck. Contrast that description with the one in Mr. Lewis’ medical record, from a visit to the doctor the day after the murder: “Head atraumatic, neck supple. No other injury.” The injury to his hand, described as ‘superficial.’ This woman fought for her life and the accused has no markings to show for it? She was a frequent runner, in reasonably good shape. Whoever murdered and assaulted her would, at the very least, have some scratches and bruising; Mr. Lewis had nothing of the sort.
“The District Attorney’s case relies on three separate pieces of evidence tying Lewis to the crime (of which there were no known eyewitnesses). One of those pieces of evidence is the prosecution’s claim that Lewis’s DNA was found on Vetrano’s back and cell phone,”
The DNA evidence in this case has been categorized in a myriad of ways: as a ‘strong profile’, a ‘possible match’, a match and as an unproven part of a complex mixture of several DNA. The lack of consistency in how the DNA is described suggests a fluid interpretation of the results which would likely lean in favor of prosecutors because it’s a good thing when you can’t definitively eliminate your key suspect from a pool of DNA, but it severely undercuts the premise that there was only one killer. And if you can’t definitively eliminate them, you can’t definitively ID them either. The two places where Lewis’ DNA shows up with certainty is on Vetrano’s back and cellphone, odd places considering how vicious the attack was and certainly not enough for a conviction.
“…the Queens DA’s office has been withholding crucial pieces of evidence from the media, including 911 calls and medical records,“
So instead of honoring requests from the media to view integral pieces of evidence presented at trial, Judge Michael Aloise has elected to defer those appeals to the Queens DA’s public information office. He gave no reason for the shift which runs counter to the traditional practice of the trial judge being responsible for the release of such information. The DA’s office has thus far denied requests without explanation except for a presumed one: they have something to hide.