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Anonymous Letter Could Loom Large In Karina Vetrano Case

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Summations are scheduled to begin Monday in the re-trial of a Brooklyn man accused of killing Queens jogger Karina Vetrano.

The first trial ended in a hung jury and this weekend the defense said it received new information that could throw the case another curveball, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported.

There have been two weeks of testimony in the retrial of 22-year-old Chanel Lewis of East New York. He is accused of sexually assaulting Vetrano and strangling her in August 2016 as she jogged in Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach.

And Monday, defense attorneys plan to submit motions seeking a hearing based on an anonymous letter mailed to them, and the Queens district attorney on Friday. CBS News reported that the letter claims to be written by an NYPD detective and reads in part during the first weeks of investigations an NYPD chief "stated on several occasions at these meetings" that police were "looking for two jacked-up white guys who are from Howard Beach."

Karina Vetrano
Karina Vetrano (credit: image via CBS2)

The defense claims the anonymous letter demonstrates key evidence had been withheld during the retrial.

In a statement, the Legal Aid Society, which represents Lewis, said, "We learned that the police approached our Mr. Lewis to obtain a DNA swab as part of a race-biased dragnet, which involved the swabbing of over 360 African-American men in Howard Beach and other neighboring sections of Brooklyn and Queens."

MOREKarina Vetrano's Parents Testify As Chanel Lewis Retrial Continues

A spokesperson for the Queens district attorney said prosecutors will respond in court accordingly and declined further comment.

Prosecutors, though, have said during this trial that tests proved it was Lewis' DNA found on Vetrano's body.

Sanford Rubenstein is a civil rights attorney who has also handled criminal cases. He said the judge will decide whether to even hold the hearing on the letter.

When asked how much the judge will question the source of the letter and its legitimacy, Rubenstein said, "I think certainly the prosecution will be given an opportunity to raise the fact that it was not necessary, it was not required."

The NYPD said over the last two years it, "already exhaustively examined the issues in this anonymous, 11th-hour letter, a missive riddled with falsehoods and inaccuracies."

Legal experts said the judge could decide whether to hold the hearing after a verdict comes down.

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