14 THE QUEENS COURIER • JULY 22, 2021 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Advocates for Chanel Lewis rally in Queens,
demanding DA Katz to reopen murder case
BY DEAN MOSES
More than 40,000 New Yorkers have
signed on to a petition urging Queens
District Attorney Melinda Katz to reopen
the conviction of Chanel Lewis, the
Brooklyn resident found guilty of murdering
Howard Beach resident Karina
Vetrano back in 2016.
Th at petition was delivered to Katz’s
Kew Gardens offi ce on Tuesday, July
13, by a group of community activists
and leaders including members of Color
Of Change, VOCAL-NY and Housing
Justice for All.
Th e murder stunned the quiet Queens
community of Howard Beach and much
of the city. Vetrano, 30, was found sexually
assaulted and fatally strangled inside
Spring Creek Park on Aug. 2, 2016, aft er
going for a run and never returning home.
Lewis was arrested months later following
a police investigation, but his fi rst
murder trial ended with a hung jury. He
was convicted of fi rst-degree murder at
his second trial and is now serving a prison
sentence of life without the possibility
Protesters, however, listed several criteria
that they believe depict Lewis’ innocence,
such as a reported history prosecutorial
misconduct by prosecutor Brad
Leventhal, concerns about racial profi ling,
mid-trial disclosure of signifi cant scientifi
c evidence, and claims that the Lewis
was coerced by police into making a confession.
Schneps Media reached out to District
Attorney Melinda Katz’s offi ce for comment,
and is awaiting a response.
Assembling across the street from DA
Katz’s offi ce on 125-01 Queens Blvd.,
demonstrators brandished signs calling
for a retrial and erected a podium plastered
with newspaper clippings involving
the nearly half-decade-old case.
Community activists Mike Th omas,
Tiff any Cabán and Erica Ford; wrongfully
convicted survivors; and even
Chanel Lewis’ own mother
led the charge, which asks
Katz to reopen the case,
something they say she
promised to do while running
for offi ce.
Mike Thomas, a
and retired law
enforcement offi cer,
believes Lewis’ race
played a deciding factor
in the conviction.
He began his speech
by stating that his
Community advocates call for the Chanel Lewis case to be reopened.
heart goes out to both Karina Vetrano’s
family and the Lewis family who have
both been under turmoil due to this case.
“We are here today to correct this injustice
that was done to this young man.
Th ey want to tell you that this case is not
about race, but it is. Chanel Lewis is in jail
because he simply was walking through
Howard Beach, minding his business,”
Th omas said.
He added that Lewis was stopped four
times aft er being racially profi led by offi -
cers, but despite the NYPD’s policy on fi ling
a worksheet report for stop and frisk,
no paperwork was ever fi lled out.
“Chanel Lewis is convicted of a murder.
How can this young man walk into Howard
Beach, kill this young lady and not be seen
on any camera or cellphone or anywhere?
It’s unconscionable and it makes no sense.
We want to say to DA Katz today,
get it right, we want this
overturned, and we want
a new trial,” Th omas
He cited the
Park Five case as an
Photos by Dean Moses
example of racial profi ling and wrongful
Lewis was sentenced in 2019, and as Katz
campaigned for the Queens district attorney
seat, she vowed to look into the case
and discuss it with the Conviction Integrity
Unit (CIU). Activists say that Lewis’ situation
meets the guidelines for the CIU to
reopen the case, calling it a wrongful conviction
and demanding that he be released
on bail during that time.
Derrick Hamilton, a man who spent 23
years falsely imprisoned for a murder he
did not commit, also joined the fi ght for
Lewis’ case to be reopened.
“I too know how it feels to be Chanel
Lewis. False confessions are one of the
leading causes in wrongful convictions. If
you look at Chanel’s confession, you see at
the end of it he is speaking to a detective
saying: ‘Are you my lawyer?’ Th at in itself
should have prohibited it from being used
in a Queens courtroom. I stand here today
to order Melinda Katz to deliver justice, not
ask. You are the district attorney of Queens.
Your integrity means everything to that
offi ce,” Hamilton said.
Chants began to ring out, “No Justice no,
no peace,” and “Melinda Katz, we want a
retrial” as protesters marched to the district
attorney’s locked building. Advocates cited
that the offi ce is public and requested they
be permitted to hand over a box fi lled with
some 40,000 signatures.
A staff member then emerged to retrieve
the petition before the group continued to
chant, “Reopen the case!”
Mike Thomas, a community advocate and retired law enforcement offi cer, speaks at the rally.
mother called for
her son’s release
and for DA Katz
the case. Demonstrators march to Melinda Katz’s offi ce.