[Speaking Truth to Empower]Chanel Lewis innocent Black victim of America’s “justice” system…Photo:Facebook
On Tuesday, Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise sentenced 22-year-old Chanel Lewis to a life sentence for the August 2, 2016 sexual assault and murder of 30-year-old Karina Vetrano, despite evidence showing Lewis’ innocence.
What happened in Judge Aloise’s court on Tuesday was a judicial farce overseen by him.
Lewis was convicted in this second case, after the first case ended in a hung jury last November. There are many things wrong with this case. Misconduct mixed with racism, by the NYPD, and the prosecutorial “officers of the court,” who make their careers off criminalizing Black Americans, led to this miscarriage of justice.
Judge Aloise discounted serious allegations of jury misconduct. This case is a perfect example of the inherently racist nature of America’s so-called justice system.
The world should take note of how America’s legal system railroads innocent Black men—in this case a mentally challenged one—while proclaiming to follow “the rule of law.”
On Tuesday, Judge Michael Aloise sentenced Chanel Lewis to a life sentence, without the possibility of parole. Lewis was convicted on April 1, in his second trial for the sexual assault and murder of Karina Vetrano, killed on August 2, 2016, while jogging in Queens, New York.
Before issuing his sentence, Judge Aloise said “This is a lose lose situation for both families. Parents worst nightmare, child goes out for a jog and never returns. In the future, you’ll find that the followers of this case would have moved on and you will be alone, but I tell you what, when that day come around, you’ll be in a cage.”
Judge Aloise’s opining here is indicative of his pro-prosecution, pro-police bias. Why is he pretending to care for “both families?” City Limits’ writer, Theodore Hamm reported that Aloise wore purple ties in the courtroom to show solidarity with Karina Vetrano’s family.
So, which “followers of this case would have moved on” is Judge Aloise referring to? Those who believe he presided over a sham trial which lead to the conviction of a harmless innocent Black man?
The judge’s use of the words “you’ll be in a cage,” is grotesque at best. At worse, they confirm and indeed indicate he has racial bias against Lewis. This is a textbook case of institutional racism in America’s courts. Judge Aloise’s condemnatory tone is flagrantly at odds with the tainted nature of this case.
The Legal Aid Society, which represents Lewis, issued a statement after the sentence saying “While there is no denying that Karina Vetrano’s death is tragic and that her family and friends suffered a great loss, every aspect of this case – from the police investigation to jury deliberations – was propelled by a desire to convict at all costs.”
The Legal Aid Society added “This was done without any concern for Mr. Lewis’s Constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial. We will appeal this case to the Appellate Division to secure Mr. Lewis the justice that he deserves.”
The conduct of the NYPD, the Queens’ D.A., and Judge Aloise is a blueprint of how Black Americans are routinely railroad into the mass incarceration prison plantations of America. This travesty of justice started even before the trial begun. Chanel Lewis is going to prison because he was an easy prey and patsy—Black to boot—for the NYPD to exploit, as they’ve done in other cases.
The Chanel Lewis case illustrates institutional racism at work.
Why did the NYPD engage in a “race-biased dragnet,” a charge made by his defense, in acquiring DNA samples from hundreds of Black men in Queens and Brooklyn? The NYPD obtain an obviously coerced confession—that mirrors their contemptible conduct in the Central Park Five case. Is it not clear evidence was planted to frame Lewis?
There are many disturbing aspects here regarding the behavior of the NYPD. The NYPD sneakily, perhaps often illegally, collected DNA samples from around 384 men, which was never disclosed to Lewis’ defense team by the prosecution. For six months, the NYPD struggled to find a suspect for this sexual assault and murder. Then, NYPD Lieutenant John Russo decided to finger Chanel Lewis for the killing.
What made Lieutenant John Russo decide to target Lewis? Because Russo claims he saw Lewis “acting suspiciously,” on two occasions. Russo’s suspicion seems based on nothing more than him seeing Lewis walking through the White Howard Beach community, near the park where Vetrano was killed. And, especially because Vetrano’s father, Phil, is a former FDNY member it appears there was added pressure to charge someone with her murder.
This explains many things, like why Mr. Vetrano was searching for his daughter’s body with the NYPD—which he discovered. According to NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, Mr. Vetrano “went into the woods, and then found the body with our [NYPD] detectives after him.”
Mr. Vetrano was evidently suspected at one point. If not, why did the NYPD obtained his DNA?
However, because he is a former firefighter exploring him as a suspect would’ve been fraught with many problems. Accusing a FDNY member of such a crime would be nearly as verboten as accusing a NYPD officer. Did Vetrano just discover his daughter’s body because, as he claims, “I know the terrain?” Since, reportedly, Mr. Vetrano usually jogged with his daughter, isn’t it ironic she was killed on the day he decided not to run with her?
Another interesting aspect here is the account of an anonymous law enforcement official who sent a letter to the Lewis defense days before the end of this last trial. That letter states NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Kemper allegedly “stated on several occasions at these meetings” that the NYPD was “looking for two jacked up White guys who are from Howard Beach.” This letter, like the DNA dragnet, was never disclosed to the defense—a likely violation of Brady (Brady v. Maryland 1963) rules which state the “prosecution must disclose,” to the defense, “information favorable to the defendant in a criminal case that is known by the prosecution.”
Why did Judge Aloise ignored this? Why did he ignore serious allegations of juror misconduct?
We now know complaining juror Christopher Gooley alleges three jurors engaged in misconduct early in the trial—including the jury foreman. According to Gooley, jury foreman, Brian Morrissey, said to him “I made my mind up already. I hope you did too.” Gooley says this was on the day Vetrano’s parents testified.
Foreman Morrissey told the news media the trial was a “slam dunk,” and in doing so inadvertently indicates there was “premature deliberations,” as Gooley alleges. Morrissey also said the jury verdict was unanimous on the murder charge—but that there were two holdouts on the sexual assault charges. So, these jurors felt Lewis murdered Vetrano—but didn’t rape her?
This points to the weakness of the DNA “evidence” that was used to frame Lewis. The NYPD claims they found DNA on Vetrano’s neck, fingertips, and phone—but nowhere on her private parts. One of these three jurors, a rape survivor, said the absence of Lewis’s DNA on Vetrano’s private parts was because the “vagina is like a sponge” that “absorbed the male DNA.”
Allowing this rape survivor to sit on this case was probably coordinated to get a conviction.
In his Monday rejection of the defense’s 330 motion, to vacate the guilty verdict, Judge Aloise apparently used the affidavits of the very three jurors Gooley says engaged in jury misconduct. When the Black Star News asked if these three jurors were the same ones accused of misconduct, we were told the Queens D.A.’s office couldn’t comment. It seems clear the tainted testimony of these three were used—and Judge Aloise surely knows this renders their testimony questionable.
But all of this was disregarded by Judge Aloise. Moreover, he likely engaged in biased conduct himself to predetermined Lewis’s conviction— functioning more like part of the prosecution team. Did Judge Aloise orchestrate the hung jury in the first trial because he sensed the prosecution would lose the case, and jeopardy would be attached?
Chanel Lewis has now been sentenced to life. But this case is far from over. The NYPD, Queens’ D.A., and Judge Aloise should all be investigated.
Black Media must expose outrages like this.
In the last fifteen years, almost two dozen of Judge Aloise’s cases have been retried because of his judicial mishandling. The Chanel Lewis case must be another one.