Vetrano Murder Suspect Drops Insanity Plea

Police escort Chanel Lewis to the 107th Precinct in February. Photo by Mari Estella

Police escort Chanel Lewis to the 107th Precinct in February. Photo by Mari Estella

Chanel Lewis, the Brooklyn man accused of sexually assaulting and murdering Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano in August 2016, dropped his insanity defense during a Queens Supreme Court hearing on Thursday, the Queens district attorney said.

Lewis, 20, who was arrested in February in the Aug. 2, 2016, death of Vetrano, was expected to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, which was confirmed by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown in July.

However, Lewis’ Legal Aid Society lawyer, Robert Moeller, said during Thursday’s hearing that instead of using a defense regarding Lewis’ psychiatric condition, he would take a closer look at the DNA evidence being used against Lewis as well as his defendant’s alleged confession earlier this year.

Moeller said that the results of Lewis’ psychiatric evaluation found that Lewis is not legally insane, nor does he have a mental illness or disability. According to the results of the evaluation, Lewis’ mental state is “not enough” for him to enter an insanity plea.

Prosecutors are expected to turn over DNA evidence when all parties return to court on Nov. 20.

Lewis could face life in prison if convicted.

–Ariel Hernandez

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