Convicted Murderer Released After Legal Error
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A man convicted of murder in Rochester, New York, has had his conviction overturned due to a legal error committed prior to his trial.

Terrence Lewis was convicted in 2018 of the second-degree murder of 29-year-old Johnny Washington, whom Lewis killed in a drive-by shooting in 2015, the Democrat & Chronicle reported. Prior to the trial, however, moving Lewis between correctional facilities violated a state law that required his indictment be thrown out.

Lewis was already in a Pennsylvania federal prison in 2017 for a federal drug conviction when he was indicted for Washington’s murder, the Chronicle reported. In January 2018, he was transported to the Monroe County Jail in New York and arraigned in Monroe County Court. Before the trial, however, Lewis was returned to the federal prison in Pennsylvania, where he stayed for two months before once again being sent to the Monroe County Jail ahead of his trial.

This transfer, a New York Supreme Court judge ruled, violated a provision of the federal Interstate Agreement on Detainer’s (IAD) law. That provision states that if a trial is not held before the prisoner is returned to his or her original place of imprisonment, the indictment must be thrown out.

“The harsh reality is that despite a jury of 12 members of our community determining, after hearing all of the evidence set before them, that defendant is guilty of the murder of Johnny C. Washington, this administrative jail decision made based on jail population and timing, not the law, unequivocally entitles defendant to dismissal of the murder in the second degree indictment with prejudice under the exacting requirements of the anti-shuttling provisions of the IAD,” Acting state Supreme Court Justice Stephen T. Miller ruled earlier this month, according to the Chronicle.

Monroe County Sheriff Todd K. Baxter said in a press release that he had apologized to Washington’s family.

“To the family and friends of Mr. Johnny Washington, there are no words to take away the pain you are justly feeling that undoubtedly comes with the lack of fairness being served based on this decision, which violates the principles of justice,” he said. “I extend my sincere apology.”

Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Amy Young told the Chronicle that this legal argument wasn’t raised before, during, or after Lewis’ trial. Lewis had been turned over in October 2020 to the New York State Department of Corrections to serve his 22 22-year-to-life sentence for Washington’s murder, and it wasn’t until this year that the issue of IAD violation was brought up.


The sheriff’s office said it “immediately took corrective measures” in the wake of the Lewis decision, including:

  • Conducted an audit pursuant to IADs to identify whether there were any individuals, currently or formerly incarcerated at the Monroe County Jail, dating back to 2018, in on an IAD; the audit revealed there were no other incarcerated individuals held on an IAD
  • Conducted a review of our transfer procedures
  • Provided training on the IAD Law to appropriate staff responsible for transferring incarcerated individuals; implemented a new procedure that indicates anytime MCSO transfers an incarcerated individual out of state, awaiting trial in Monroe County, MCSO notifies the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office and the judge assigned to the case before the relocation

Lewis was released from a maximum security state prison in New York earlier this month.

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