A Wayne County judge Friday denied a 58-year-old Michigan prisoner’s request for bond while he awaits possible resentencing for a murder he was convicted of as a teen.
Charles Lewis was found guilty 40 years ago of the robbery and fatal shooting of an off-duty police officer in an east side Detroit bar in 1976. He is serving a life term without the possibility of parole.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard cited the seriousness of Lewis’ conviction in denying bond. Lewis has been incarcerated since he was 17.
“What concerns the court the most is the fact that he stands before the court convicted of murder and I can’t ignore that,” the judge said.
Lewis, who attended the hearing, and his supporters have maintained he is innocent and that Lewis, who is a musician, was not at the murder scene but elsewhere playing a gig when the murder of Gerald Sypitkowski occurred.
Lewis’ appellate attorney Victoria Burton-Harris had asked the judge to release her client on bond.
“He’s not a danger to anyone or a flight risk. Where would he go? How would he flee?” asked Burton-Harris. “He should be given a personal bond with restrictions and release him to the care of his dear mother, who has been waiting for 40-plus years to hug and kiss her son.”
Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Thomas Dawson said Lewis should not be released on bond while he awaits resentencing because of the nature of the charges against him.
“He’s never accepted responsibility for his actions,” Dawson said. “This is not someone that has shown an ability to be rehabilitated. (Mr. Lewis) has not shown any reformation.”
Burton-Harris shot back, “Of course, he doesn’t accept responsibility. He has maintained his innocence for the past 40-plus years.”
Lewis’ mother, Rosie, expressed disappointment in Lillard’s decision and added that her son was innocent of the murder of the off-duty officer. She vowed to continue to fight for justice for her son.
“I just know my son didn’t murder (the off-duty officer),” she said after the hearing at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. “The evidence was never there.”
Lewis is among more than 200 Michigan “juvenile lifers” whose cases are being reviewed since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a life sentence without the possibility of parole for underage offenders is unconstitutional.
At issue in Lewis’ case has been the search for his missing court files, estimated to be large enough to fill three carts. Lillard told Lewis’ attorneys Friday that his file was located.
Lewis’ defense attorneys said part of the file but not the entire file had been recovered. He is due back in court in March.