QUEENS CRIMINAL COURT — Lawyers for Chanel Lewis — who is accused of killing Karina Vetrano last year as she jogged in a marshy area near her Howard Beach home — said in court Thursday that the district attorney's Office has not yet turned over DNA evidence at the heart of the case.
"They say it's him, let's see what our expert says — but they need that raw data to make that determination as to how the test was done," Lewis's Legal Aid attorney, Bob Moeller, said.
"They claim they don't have it," he said outside Queens Criminal Court on Thursday, following a court appearance by his client. "It's in the medical examiner's office."
Lewis was arrested and charged with murder in February after officials said his DNA matched what was found on Vetrano's body, clothes and cellphone after the August 2016 murder.
The data requested by the defense is "the baseline that they use when [investigators] decide whether or not the DNA that they've tested is somebody," Moeller said, adding his team's expert needs all of the data in order to do its own analysis.
At the court hearing, Judge Gregory Lasak told the defense it could file a motion for compliance, and Moeller later said he would try and obtain the information from the medical examiner's office.
But the defense wasn't the only one with complaints Thursday.
Lasak also instructed defense lawyers to expedite their report on Lewis's psychiatric evaluation so prosecutors can conduct their own examination, from both a psychiatrist and forensic psychologist.
A psychiatric evaluation will also help determine if Lewis understood what he was doing as he confessed to the brutal murder, Moeller said.
Outside court, Moeller also raised doubts about his client's confession, which was given only after hours with NYPD officials in February. "They call it a confession — this is 18 hours in custody," he said. "Parts videotaped, parts not videotaped. I have some questions as to the statement."
During the hearing, Lewis — dressed in jeans and a blue checked shirt — at times looked toward Vetrano's family members, who were seated together on one side of court.
The victim's mother, Cathie Vetrano, clutched a gold crucifix, gritted her teeth and stared at her daughter's accused killer throughout the hearing.
Lewis's family was also present, including his mother, Veta Lewis, who sat with her eyes closed throughout most of the appearance.
Outside court, his sister Tracey Greene maintained his innocence.
She visited him on Rikers Island on Wednesday night, she said, and the two talked about "regular stuff," like how everyone was doing at home. She declined to say if they discussed the case.
"He's innocent," she said. "He had nothing to do with it."
Lewis is due back in court Oct. 5.