With Jury Set, Families Brace For Start Of Trial

By Christina Carrega

Eight women and four men from across Queens County are expected to listen to opening statements on Monday for the murder case that rocked a Howard Beach community over two years ago.

Justice Michael Aloise brought the jury panel and four alternates together to listen to all the charges in the indictment against Chanel Lewis on Tuesday afternoon.

Lewis, 22, was indicted for the murder and sexual abuse of 30-year-old Karina Vetrano as she jogged in a trail nearby her Howard Beach home on Aug. 2, 2016.

 Karina Vetrano's mother, Kathy and other relatives exit Queens Supreme Court after 12 jurors and four alternates were chosen. //  Eagle  photo by Christina Carrega

Karina Vetrano's mother, Kathy and other relatives exit Queens Supreme Court after 12 jurors and four alternates were chosen. // Eagle photo by Christina Carrega

As Justice Aloise read the legal definitions of each charge to the jurors, Vetrano's mother Kathy attempted to fight back tears. As the sexual abuse-related charges were read, her cries caught Lewis’ attention on the other side of the courtroom. When Lewis turned to Vetrano’s family, one of Vetrano's sisters snarled at him.

The heartbroken mother's cries also caught the attention of two of the alternates seated closest to the audience.

Lewis's mother Veta sat with other relatives and a community activist from East New York and watched Aloise, prosecutor Brad Leventhal and defense attorney Julia Burke address the jurors who will decide Lewis’ fate.

The panelists consist of a medical assistant, a graphic artist and at least one alternate who has served in a criminal trial before. The eight women are African-American, white and of South-Asian or Caribbean descent. The four male jurors are white, Asian and Latino.

The prosecutor and defense are expected to give opening statements on Monday morning with a police and civilian witness to follow.

The trial is slated to last two-and-a-half weeks.