Lifetime conviction in question for man convicted of killing officer in 1977

Charles Lewis convicted of killing off-duty officer when he was 17 years old

DETROIT – Family and friends of a juvenile lifer gathered outside of the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice on Tuesday morning pleading that he be set free after they believe the court lost important documents in his file.

Charles Lewis was convicted of killing an off-duty officer in 1977 when he was 17 years old. He is now 57 years old.

"We need justice. The brother needs to come home to his family," said Jelekeco Whittaker.

The court is unable to find some of the paperwork in his original file from four decades ago that had the sentencing transcript and some of the transcripts from his trial.

"There's no way the defense can defend against that without having a file. When you're walking into a case from 40 years ago, you want the history, you want to know what happened, you want to know everything that happened and in this case, we have parts of the file, but we're missing, for example, the sentencing transcript. We just don't know what the transcript says so it makes it tough when we're missing those key pieces of information," said Valerie Newman, Lewis' attorney.

However, Judge Qiana Lillard said she wanted to take more time to make sure officials from the court look for the documents before saying for certain that the files are missing.

"I just don't want to say the file can't be found without someone who can testify under oath on behalf of the court about the efforts that were made to find them," she said.

Lewis' family says he is innocent and that he should be set free.

"I just hope they let my son go because they've done all they could to him," said Rosie Lewis, his mother.

"He can't challenge it [his conviction] without the files and records. ... we maintain his innocence," said his sister, Wendy Lewis.

Lewis had a previous hearing in September when the judge said the court would look for the documents, but that didn't end up happening.

The prosecutor wants to give Lewis another life sentence, but Lewis' attorney is arguing for a 40-60 year sentence, which means it would be up to the parole board to decide whether to release him or have him serve up to 20 additional years.

Lewis' next hearing is Oct. 28. At that time, the judge will say whether or not the files have been located, and Lewis can proceed with his litigation.

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About the Author:

Koco joined the Local 4 News team in September of 2016. She was born and raised in Metro Detroit, attended Central Michigan University, and previously worked at WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids.