Court voids man’s murder conviction based on violation of law on transferring inmates

Terence Lewis murder conviction thrown out

The day's major News events, business reports, sports updates, Rochester area weather information and tomorrow's forecast are presented by the News10NBC Team.

MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. — A man convicted in a 2015 Rochester murder is now walking free after that conviction was thrown out.

The Monroe County sheriff says it’s because of an interstate agreement on shuttling prisoners.

Terrence Lewis was released from Five Points Correctional Facility this month. In 2018, he was convicted of the murder of 29-year-old Johnny Washington. Investigators say back in May 2015, Lewis shot and killed Washington on Sixth and Bay streets.

In November 2017, Lewis was serving time on a drug conviction at a federal prison in Pennsylvania when he was indicted for Washington’s murder. He was brought to the Monroe County Jail in January 2018 and arraigned. While awaiting trial, Lewis was taken back to federal prison in Pennsylvania.

A state Supreme Court judge ruled that is a violation of a federal law that says if a trial is not held on an indictment before a prisoner is returned to the original place of imprisonment, the case must be dismissed.

According to the decision handed down in state Supreme Court, “The harsh reality is that despite a jury of 12 members of our community determining, after hearing all of the evidence set before them, that defendant is guilty of the murder of Johnny C. Washington, this administrative jail decision made based on jail population and timing, not the law, unequivocally entitles defendant to dismissal of the murder in the second degree indictment with prejudice under the exacting requirements of the anti-shuttling provisions of the IAD.”

Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter addressed the situation Tuesday night.

“To be absolutely clear as day, we should have been aware,” Baxter said. “The repercussions ae so great. … we overturned a murder charge. We overturned justice. We have a family that is grieving here in Monroe County; we have people that are probably nervous and scared.”

Baxter extended an apology to the family and friends of Johnny Washington.

“To the family and friends of Mr. Johnny Washington, there are no words to take away the pain you are justly feeling that undoubtedly comes with the lack of fairness being served based on this decision, which violates the principles of justice,” the sheriff said in a release. “I extend my sincere apology.”

The Sheriff’s Office says it has conducted an audit to see if any other current or former jail inmates would be similarly affected (they aren’t); did a review of the transfer procedures; and provided training on the IAD law to staff responsible for transferring inmates. The Sheriff’s Office put a new procedure in place directing that anytime the Sheriff’s Office transfers an inmate out of state — when they’re awaiting trial in Monroe County — it must first notify the county District Attorney’s Office and the judge assigned to the case.