Channel 4 video above is from Oct. 2017 hearing in Charles “K.K.” Lewis case
Prosecutor moves to certify substitute for Lewis’ lost court record, after first telling Judge she could give Lewis “a term of years’ in exchange
Mitigation hearing canceled
Over 200 Michigan juvenile lifers still stranded in prison without sentences, 7 yrs. after U.S. Supreme court ruled JLWOP unconstitutional
“I’ve got to push hard to pave the way for others that come after me”–Lewis
By Diane Bukowski
January 22, 2019
DETROIT—Charles Lewis, a Michigan juvenile lifer with 43 years in prison, says he is “shocked” by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s latest move in three years of re-sentencing hearings on his case.
While waiting for a “mitigation hearing” set for May 15, where reasons for the reduction of his life sentence would be introduced, he learned that it was canceled. Instead, Asst. Prosecutor Thomas Dawson filed a motion asking Judge Qiana Lillard to certify a grossly incomplete court record in order to proceed with re-sentencing.
Contradictorily, Dawson gave the impression during a Sept. 28 hearing that he would be amenable to a term of years sentence for Lewis, in light of the numerous files missing from his case.
Ironically, rhe current motion will be heard Thursday, Jan. 24 at 10:30 a.m. in Judge Lillard’s courtroom, #502 in the Frank Murphy Hall at Gratiot and St. Antoine in Detroit, only three days after the official Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. The motion claims that MCR 3.507(D) allows Lillard to do so. (See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/MCR-3-607.pdf for text.)
Lewis, an experienced jailhouse lawyer, says that is a statute covering civil, not criminal cases. He and his attorney Sanford Schulman have cited a Michigan Supreme Court decision, People v. Fullwood (1974) that bars reconstruction of lost CRIMINAL files. Other rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court, notably Chessman v. Teets (1959), and from the Michigan Supreme Court say the remedy for cases in which court records have been wholly or partially lost is dismissal and remand.
“I am certain that Kym Worthy and Judge Lillard have already talked about the motion that [AP Thomas] Dawson filed,” Lewis said. “That is a sticking point that they will not be able to get around. This issue also probably deals with more than just me. There are probably a lot of juveniles that have stuff missing from their court files, although maybe not to the extent that I have a complete file missing. How my case is dealt with may affect cases that will come behind me. So, I’ve got to push hard to pave the way to make it better for those that come behind me.”
Lewis is the first of 200 Michigan juvenile lifers with prosecutor recommendations for renewed life without parole to be heard in court. His re-sentencing hearings have been going on since March, 2016. As a child of 17 in 1976, he was convicted of the first-degree murder of a white off-duty police officer, despite accounts from eyewitnesses including the officer’s partner that they saw another man commit the crime.
Lewis’ hopes for his freedom were buoyed last year when he was abruptly moved to the Macomb Correctional Facility’s Re-Entry Unit, after Dawson had suggested to Judge Lillard three times during a Sept. 28 hearing that she could deal with his missing records by giving him a term of years instead of life without parole. Lewis watched as several others in his unit left for hearings and went home after maxing out with sentences of 40-60 years.
Social workers at the unit prepared him for reentry, arranging for him to obtain a bridge card for food and regular Medicaid. They even set an appointment with a doctor. Lewis suffers from severe diabetes and has had three heart attacks while in prison.
While at Macomb, he has been playing the piano during regular church services. During his previous years in prison, he directed and wrote music for numerous prison bands. He also played guitar, keyboards and other instruments, which he began doing at the age of 4.
But Lewis’ hopes are now cruelly dashed, and he is re-adjusting himself to the likelihood that his battle will continue into the Michigan Court of Appeals.
The new year dawns seven years after the U.S. Supreme Court first ruled mandatory juvenile life without parole unconstitutional in Miller v. Alabama. But two-thirds of 363 Michigan juvenile lifers still languish in prison, many having served these unconstitutional sentences for decades because prosecutors claim without specific grounds that they are “incorrigible.” This is the largest number in any state.
This appears to be a gross violation of U.S. Supreme Court mandates that only “the rarest child” should be sentenced to die in prison. Michigan, which has the second highest number of juvenile lifers in the U.S., and Louisiana are the two states that have been most resistant to the U.S. Supreme Court dictates, even after the high court confirmed in Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), that Miller was retroactive.
“By contrast, the neighboring states of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio have just 16 juvenile lifers combined,” says an article in the Michigan Bar Journal. “More than half of all states and the District of Columbia no longer impose life-without-parole sentences on children in any circumstance. And the United States is alone on the global stage in imposing life-without-parole sentences on children.”
The Third Circuit Court’s General Counsel Richard Lynch said, “Wayne County had 144 defendants eligible for relief under Miller. To date, 86 cases have been resolved. This leaves 58 cases subject to resentencing.” Originally, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said she had selected 66 cases for recommendations of life without parole, the highest number of any county in the state.
Lewis’ longtime friend, Minister Reginald M. Reynolds X, decries the delay in Lewis’ release.
“He has been a very influential brother to me,” Minister Reynolds X told VOD. He said he first spoke with Lewis when Lewis contacted him to ask for help with his mother’s move to another location. The Minister was released from prison in 1995. Lewis, the oldest of five children, has always looked after his mother and younger brothers and sisters by whatever means available to him during the decades of his incarceration.
“Since then, he has given me very helpful advice at critical times in my life,” Minister Reynolds X said. “He was always there for me and I was there for him. I don’t believe this brother should be in prison. He would be a tremendous asset to the community, because of the knowledge and experience he has gained through the course of these years, and the power of his personality.”
He continued, “I want to see the joy in his mother’s face when he comes home. I went with her several times to review his file, and every time we waited for hours before the clerk told us they could not find it. How can they lose a file that large? How can you hold a man incarcerated when you don’t even have the proof of why he is incarcerated?”
Lewis’ attorney Sanford Schulman said in a motion heard Sept. 28, 2018, “The loss of the pertinent files and records is not subject to the harmless error test. It is a critical and structural error that will deprive the defendant of his constitutional right to due process. Indeed the Michigan Courts have spoken clearly on this issue. In the case of People v. Fullwood, 392 Mich. 751 (1974), [the court ruled] “On order of the Court, sua sponte pursuant to GCR 1963, 865.1(7), defendant-appellant’s conviction and sentence is peremptorily reversed due to the impossibility of reconstructing the lost record in this case. The matter was remanded to the Recorder’s Court for the City of Detroit for retrial. The Court in Fullwood noted simply and succinctly that without a complete and meaningful file, an appeal could not proceed and as such the defendant was prejudiced without any fault. As such, the case was appropriately reversed.”
That motion was one of five heard in front of Judge Lillard on Sept. 28, motions to dismiss the case due to actual innocence, the loss of the court file, ineffective assistance of counsel, and the untimely request made by the prosecutor to re-sentence Lewis to life without parole. Lillard summarily denied all the motions, but still did not say she had certified Lewis’ “restored” file. (See
Minister Reynolds X said, “I believe they are waiting for Charles and the other juvenile lifers to die in prison.”
#TAKETHEKNEE! FRI. OCT. 6; FREE CHARLES LEWIS, INNOCENT, IN PRISON 41 YEARS; COURT FILES DESTROYED