On August 6, 1996, a murder occurred in the Cobbs Creek section of West Philadelphia. Unbeknownst to Terrance Lewis, it would set off a chain of events that almost resulted in an innocent man dying in jail. One year and four months later, Terrance was arrested by the Philadelphia Police and and charged with 2nd degree murder, robbery, conspiracy and firearms charges. Terrance maintained his innocence then and continued to maintain his innocence throughout 21 years of wrongful incarceration.
On May 24, 1999, Terrance Lewis was wrongfully convicted of 2nd Degree Murder and sentenced to life without parole. He was 17 years old at the time of his arrest.
His son, Zahaire, would be born 1 month later.
In 2008, a federal judge revisited Terrance's claims of innocence. The court appointed attorney David Laigaie to represent Terrance. After a hearing, she wrote an opinion that spoke to Terrance's innocence. But due to procedural problems highlighted by the District Attorney's Office, the Court concluded that it was powerless to act on it's finding of innocence.
In 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States, in the landmark case Miller v. Alabama, held that juvenile offenders could not be sentenced to mandatory life without parole. In 2015, the Supreme Court decided Montgomery v. Louisiana, which applied the rule against mandatory life without parole retroactively. This provided an avenue for Terrance to be released. It also provided an opportunity for his attorneys to simultaneously have his claims of innocence reviewed by anyone and everyone that would listen.
On May 21, 2019, those claims of innocence were heard. The Honorable Barbara McDermott of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, and Terrance's defense team, which has consisted of David Laigaie, Josh Hill and Shari Maynard of the law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, Kevin Harden, Jr., of the law firm Ross Feller Casey, and Annie Ruhnke of the Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project, convened for what was expected to be a re-sentencing. Instead, the Court granted Terrance's petition and granted him a new trial because of the egregious violations of due process at his initial trial. The District Attorney's Office immediately stated their intention not to retry Terrance and dropped all charges.
Terrance is now home. He worked his first job at the age of 12 and worked up and until his incarceration. He is one of the few if not the only juvenile lifer in Pennsylvania who included a Social Security statement of earnings in his re-sentencing filings.
Terrance is in need of basics. Shelter. Food. Clothes. He has to obtain a learner's permit and driver's license. He has job opportunities that will require transportation. His son, Zahaire, is now 21 and recently left college due to financial concerns. His father, who lives in Merion, Arkansas and is a veteran working at the EEOC, has set up this GoFundMe to assist Terrance in getting back on his feet.
Unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not offer compensation to the wrongfully convicted. Had Terrence been re-sentenced as a juvenile lifer, he would have been guaranteed six months of transitional housing and a bevy of state-funded resources to assist with his transition. But because he is innocent, Pennsylvania provides him with nothing.
The state of Kansas currently provides $65,000 for each year of wrongful incarceration (and $25,000 for each year of wrongful probation or parole).
We set a goal of approximately $10,000 per year for Terrance's wrongful incarceration (rounded up a bit).
Let's help Terrance get his life back so he live the dreams he's had for himself for the last 21 years.