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Six jurors picked in retrial of suspect in killing of Karina Vetrano

Jury selection is to continue Thursday in the

Jury selection is to continue Thursday in the retrial of Chanel Lewis, right, accused in the killing of Karina Vetrano. Credit: Karina Vetrano; James Carbone

After a full day of court proceedings Wednesday, the first six jurors were selected in the retrial of a Brooklyn man accused of killing Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano in 2016 as she ran in a park near her home.

Scores of potential jurors had trooped into the Queens courtroom of State Supreme Court Judge Michael Aloise for questioning by him, prosecutors, and defense attorneys for suspect Chanel Lewis, 22, in what is expected to be a three- to four-week trial.

In November, a jury voted 7-5 for conviction, failing to achieve a unanimous guilty verdict, according to people briefed on the deliberations at the time. Lewis faced charges of murder and sexual abuse in the previous trial.  

For the retrial, an additional six more jurors, as well as four expected alternates, still must be selected. Jury selection continues Thursday.

The jurors selected Wednesday included five men and one woman.  Among the men was a former New York City corrections officer from Bayside as well as a theatrical producer from Forest Hills. The sole woman selected so far lives in Elmhurst.  Five of the six are married.

Legal experts and law enforcement officials noted that the first jury appeared to be younger and was selected only after about nine hours of selection. The current jury selection process could take another day.

Potential jurors were asked about whether they could serve in such a high-profile case, assess the evidence fairly, and put aside any sympathies in order to render a verdict based solely on the evidence. Potential jurors were also asked if they had any negative experiences with cops. Some said yes but that they still could assess a police officer's testimony fairly.

The potential jurors were also asked if they believed it possible that someone might falsely confess to a crime.  Lewis gave two confessions but his statements were coerced by cops and made after he was held for hours without being allowed to make a telephone call, said his lawyer, Robert Moeller,  during the first trial.

Vetrano was found strangled and face down in the weeds in Spring Creek Park near her home after she went for a jog the evening of Aug. 2, 2016. She was found by her father and police. Investigators recovered DNA evidence from her body and cell phone they contend matched that of Lewis, who voluntarily gave detectives a sample of his genetic material. His lawyer said the DNA evidence was ambiguous.

Lewis was arrested in February 2017 and charged with killing Vetrano.  Vetrano's father, Philip Vetrano is expected to testify, as well police officers and forensic experts.


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