NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Closing arguments were made Monday in the murder trial of Chanel Lewis, the man accused of killing Queens jogger Karina Vetrano in 2016.
The prosecution and defense teams are making their final case to jurors ahead of deliberations by the jury who will determine Lewis’ fate.
Lewis, 22, is accused of killing 30-year-old Vetrano while she was jogging in Spring Creek Park near her family’s home in Howard Beach.
The case is nearing a close after nearly two years and two weeks of graphic testimony, with both Vetrano’s parents sitting in the courtroom. On Monday, about three dozen of her family members and friends walked into the building, followed by Lewis’s mother.
Lewis’ defense team spoke for about two hours Monday, claiming the crime scene was not properly preserved and suggesting evidence may have been inadvertently tainted. The defense also said the detectives rushed to judgment and Lewis only confessed because he wanted to go home after waiting hours in an interrogation room.
Last week, there were gasps in the courtroom as Lewis’s legal aid attorney rested their case after calling just one witness. Investigator Jennifer Burke testified for less than 10 minutes and answered a handful of questions about visiting the crime scene.
The most damaging evidence is a videotaped confession from Lewis himself, who told police he was upset with a neighbor when he went to Spring Creek Park, came across Vetrano and “just lost it.”
“This girl jogging… And you know, one thing led to another,” he told investigators. “Hitting her and stuff like that.”
His lawyer has argued the confession was coerced during a six-hour interrogation in isolation.
The defense also cited sloppy handling of the crime scene and evidence tampering, like a necklace and earbuds Vetrano was wearing when she was killed that were removed from her body at the scene but never entered into evidence until weeks later.
“What is at issue here is whether police arrested the person responsible,” his lawyer said Monday.
Prosecutors presented evidence linking Lewis to DNA found on Vetrano’s neck, fingernails and phone.
Jurors also heard from Vetrano’s father, who described when he discovered his daughter’s badly beaten body that had been sexually abused.
If found guilty, Lewis faces up to life in prison.