By David Brand
Dozens of criminal justice reform advocates joined the family of the man convicted of killing Howard Beach resident Karina Vetrano to call on the Queens’ District Attorney’s Office to reopen the controversial murder investigation Tuesday.
Chanel Lewis, 22, was convicted for first-degree murder at retrial and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility for parole in April. Days before the jury reached its verdict, an anonymous letter from a person claiming to be an NYPD officer detailed potential racial bias from the early days of the investigation into the August 2016 murder.
The account, first published by the Daily News, galvanized justice reform advocates and prompted Mo Glover, a New York City resident not previously affiliated with the Lewis family, to start an online petition demanding that the DA’s office investigate the claims.
The petition accumulated more than 26,000 signatures, which advocates from Vocal-NY and the Color of Change delivered to top DA officials at Queens Borough Hall Tuesday.
“I’m not a politician … I’m just a woman of color and native New Yorker who heard about Chanel Lewis’ case and became very alarmed,” Glover said. “I hope more New Yorkers become more involved in the criminal justice system.”
A Queens Supreme Court jury determined April 1 that Lewis encountered Vetrano while she jogged in a park near her home and attacked her, strangling her to death and sexually abusing her. The seemingly random act generated international attention and led to a massive manhunt in Howard Beach and surrounding, predominantly black, neighborhoods of Brooklyn.
NYPD officers obtained DNA samples from black residents of the area in what critics have called a “race-biased dragnet.”