The trial of a Brooklyn man charged with sexually assaulting and killing Queens jogger Karina Vetrano two years ago ended in a hung jury Tuesday evening — after just over a day and a half of deliberations.
Chanel Lewis, 22, of East New York, was accused of attacking Vetrano near her Howard Beach home and dumping her body in weeds near a jogging path in August 2016.
In a note to Judge Michael Aloise in Queens Supreme Court, the jury wrote: “After deliberating for the entire day we are split. It doesn’t seem like we can make progress. We feel that we have exhausted all of our options.”
There had been a total of only 13 hours of deliberation over two days — after a court case in which the panel had been presented DNA evidence linking Lewis to the crime scene and a recording of Lewis confessing.
Because of the impasse, Lewis’ attorney moved for a mistrial and, unexpectedly, Aloise granted it.
The move shocked the courtroom, with one Vetrano relative exclaiming: “Oh my God!”
Aloise explained his move: “I’m inclined to agree [with the defense motion] even though it’s only been a day and a half. There were extensive deliberations. They covered issues central to the debate.” He then wished jurors a happy holiday and dismissed them.
The Legal Aid Society, which represented Lewis, said in a statement that the hung jury proves its client may be innocent: “As we have said since day one, this case is far from conclusive and the jury’s deadlock proves this.”
The seven-woman, five-man jury deliberated for one hour Monday afternoon and then 12 on Tuesday before declaring themselves deadlocked a little before 9:30 p.m.
No juror would stop to talk to the media, other than one responding “yes” when asked if it had been a tough day.
Vetrano’s parents, Catherine and Phil, left the courthouse about an hour later without commenting.
Prosecutors said Tuesday night they will retry Lewis. He’s expected back in court on Jan. 22 and will be continue to be remanded.
“He’s just exhausted,” said his Legal Aid attorney, Robert Moeller. “I don’t even know if he realizes what it means at this point. He’s tired.”
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SOURCE: NY Post, Priscilla DeGregory, Ben Feuerherd and Natalie Musumeci