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The lawyers of a New York man serving a life sentence for the murder of a Queens jogger are fighting for his conviction to be overturned, arguing in a document filed on Monday (Aug. 21) that a “racial dragnet” led him to be named the primary suspect in the case.

According to the New York Post, 33-year-old Karin Vetrano was last seen on Aug. 2, 2016, when she went for a run at a park near her house close to Howard Beach. 

Her father discovered her body 15 feet from the running path, with her pants pulled down. When cops investigated, they reportedly found then-20-year-old Chanel Lewis’ DNA at the scene and took him into custody in February 2017.

However, Lewis’ lawyers claim that prosecutors failed to identify their means of using DNA testing, claiming the NYPD conducted the test on “Hundreds of Black men” before Lewis’ arrest.

The now-27-year-old’s lawyers added that detectives conducted the testing with an unlicensed lab, Parabon Nanolabs. That same “unlicensed” lab ruled that the DNA found at the crime scene belonged to a Black man.

“How this racial dragnet led specifically to Chanel Lewis’ door remains unknown,” Ronald Kuby and Rhidaya Trivedi wrote in the filing. 

The DNA Parabon Nanolabs used allegedly came from Vetrano’s cellphone, allowing them to research the biogeographic ancestry and phenotype, leading them to reportedly discover the race.

Trivedi and Kuby argued Lewis’ defense team wasn’t aware of the testing method until the same day Lewis received his life sentence in 2019 after a whistleblower’s letter was presented before jury deliberations.

Kuby and Trivedi contended former prosecutor Brad Leventhal deliberately hid documents about Parabon’s findings, including the fact that the lab wasn’t licensed in New York.

Aside from the lab and DNA results, Lewis’ lawyers proclaimed one detective lied on the stand, and the statements from detectives at trial were “carefully tailored to maintain a shroud of secrecy over the racial dragnet.”

“While the truth of what happened in this case remains unknown, what is known is that the truth has been willfully, intentionally and maliciously suppressed in order to guarantee a conviction,” the file read. 

It took time for Kuby and Trivedi to obtain their findings to grant their client a fair trial. A petition was curated in 2021, demanding the DA office to review every corner of the case, including Leventhal’s unethical ways as a prosecutor.

“The NYPD engaged in a massive racial dragnet, inspired by a DNA lab not permitted to work in NYC, then worked with a now-disgraced prosecutor to conceal it, hide the documents that would have proven it, and then promoted a phony story about dogged police work and good luck to conceal the intensely racist nature of the investigation,” Kuby said.

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