Detroit man released from prison after 42 years behind bars for fatal shooting he committed as teen

Charles Lewis shot, killed off-duty officer during robbery at 17

Man freed from prison after 42 years for a crime he committed as a teen

DETROIT – A Detroit man walked free Friday after spending 42 years behind bars for a murder conviction. 

Charles Lewis was 17 when he was sentenced to life in prison for shooting and killing an off-duty Detroit police officer during a robbery. 

He was resentenced this week after the Supreme Court ruled that teens can't automatically be sentenced to life terms.

"It's surreal. It's mind-blowing," Lewis said. "To go from last night I was in the hole, sleeping in a cell with nothing in it but a mattress and a blanket and a sheet, and to go from that to standing in the line at McDonald's is mind-blowing."

While Lewis has maintained he's innocent, the change in his sentence doesn't mean he was exonerated, and he knows some people will always see him as a murderer.

"When people evaluate my life, they will always say that, but they will also be able to point out the positive things," he said.

Lewis was released from the Macomb Correctional Facility in Lenox on Friday morning. Some family members were waiting for him. 

"My thoughts were, 'Get out of prison as fast as I can.' People were hugging me, and I was dragging myself out. I didn't really feel safe until I got to the parking lot and then I could breathe," he said. 

Throughout Lewis' years behind bars, he went back and forth to court, fighting his case. His attorney, Sanford Schulman, defended him in Thursday's court hearing. 

Schulman said, "The 17-year-old boy (from 1977) is dead," referring to the fact that Lewis is now a "different man."

"As a 17-year-old kid, I can just vaguely remember what my life was like then," said Lewis.

When Lewis was resentenced by Judge Qiana Lillard on Thursday, he was speechless. Lewis said he had not taken his insulin in days and also did not want to say the wrong thing.

"That was the one time in my head I told myself to just be quiet," said Lewis.

Lewis has a love for music and he plays the lead guitar, bass guitar and piano. He said he would like to pursue a music career. He describes himself as having a hard work ethic and said he hopes to land a job soon and give back to the community. 

"You can always rise above your circumstances to become whatever you want to be. I can give back love and peace and harmony and an example of what a person can get out and do constructively," Lewis said.