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The sentencing for a man convicted of killing a New York City jogger has been delayed after a juror has claimed there was misconduct among the jury in the case.
A hearing to investigate the juror’s claims has been set for Monday, with a tentative sentencing scheduled for Tuesday in the controversial case that has earned the attention of community activists.
The delay is the latest in a series of setbacks for the family of Karina Vetrano, whose body was discovered in the reeds of Spring Creek Park after the 30-year-old had gone out for a run in August 2016.
The initial trial, held at the end of last year, resulted in a hung jury. Earlier this month, a second jury to hear the case found Chanel Lewis guilty of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and aggravated sexual abuse in the jogger’s death, but shortly befre the verdict Lewis’ defense attorneys sought a hearing after receiving an anonymous letter in the case. The letter claimed that police had initially been pursuing two white suspects before gathering DNA samples from hundreds of black men, according to WNBC.
In this latest delay, Lewis’ attorneys filed a motion requesting a hearing to review an affidavit from one of the jurors on the case. The juror has claimed that three fellow jurors disregarded the court’s instructions on when and how to deliberate, ABC News reports.
Prosecutors have denied those allegations but agreed that a hearing should be held to evaluate the claims.
“We believe, in the interest of justice that a hearing should be held so that this court can see and that the public can see this was a valid and good verdict,” Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal said, according to WABC. “The family has waited a long time for justice in this case.”
After the guilty verdict was announced, the jury foreman, Brian Morrissey, told the local station he felt it had been a “slam dunk case” in which jurors were able to reach a consensus in five hours.
“The DNA was overwhelming,” Morrisey said. “One in a trillion, one in a billion. He confessed to it. It was not coerced. What can I say?”
But while the jury and prosecution agreed that Lewis was responsible for the brutal rape and murder, his mother Veta Lewis believes her son was wrongly convicted and thinks police planted the DNA evidence.
“My son, Chanel Lewis, is innocent, and all I want for my son is justice for Chanel,” she said. “I know the child that I raised, and God did not give me a murderer.”
As the decision to delay the sentencing was made on Wednesday, supporters of Lewis chanted “Justice for Chanel” as they walked out of the courtroom, according to The New York Post. Protesters outside the courtroom also shouted “No justice, no peace” and “Shame on the DA.”
"They say in the jury, they are questioning their behavior, so that will be a hearing on Monday to determine whether the sentence should be thrown out or whether the conviction should be thrown out because of the behavior of the jury. They will do that on Monday. We say he should be liberated on Monday,” community activist Charles Barron told WABC.
Vetrano’s family, who erupted in cheers when the guilty verdict was announced, did not address reporters Wednesday.
The judge has barred both the defense and prosecution from speaking about the case before Monday’s hearing.
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