How a Rochester murder conviction got dismissed

Court Voids Conviction

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – We’re learning more about a murder conviction dismissal. We told you about Terrence Lewis, who had years left in his sentence for the murder of 29-year-old Johnny Washington in 2015. He was released earlier this month, due to a legal issue.

He was sentenced to 22 years to life in 2018.

The case cannot be retried. That’s how serious the repercussions are of this law violation.

According to the judge ruling, when Lewis was indicted for Washington’s murder, he was already in a federal prison in Pennsylvania on a drug conviction. At the time, he was extradited to Monroe County Court for arraignment, then back to the Pennsylvania prison.

Crossing state lines before sentencing violates the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Law, and the judge determined that merited a dismissal.

The situation is pretty confusing, so we turned to Criminal Defense Attorney Safa Robinson, who is unrelated to the case, to learn more about the law.

Robinson said the law was written with the defendant’s rights in mind; the right to have a speedy and expeditious trial. It’s been in place since at least the ‘90s, and practiced in 48 states.

The decision to transport Lewis back to Pennsylvania seems to be related to overcrowding at the Monroe County Jail, according to the judge paperwork.

Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter admits his office should have been aware of the law, but said it went under its radar because it’s used so infrequently.

“We went back to do an audit, to determine what occurred and what corrective action we can take to prevent this from occurring in the future,” said Baxter. “And one of the things we found out, is this law was only used once, this particular anti-shuttling law, was only used once in six years since I’ve been here as sheriff. And this happened to be this one particular time.”

Robinson said the law is in place for a reason, and that’s to ensure swift and expeditious prosecution.

“Also I think the legislative intent behind this, was they don’t want to disrupt an individual’s ability to be rehabilitated in that original jurisdiction,” she said. “So if they’re in any type of programs, or treatment program, mental health program, or any other program they’re participating in while incarcerated, the legislature does not want that disrupted.”

“That’s a travesty of justice, that’s a travesty for the family,” said Baxter. “And I own it, you know, as a sheriff, the law is clear, it’s up to me, and I apologize to that family I apologize to the community,” said Baxter.

MCSO said it’s now trained staff to learn more about the law.

MCSO also implemented a new procedure to notify the DA’s office and judge assigned to a case, prior to any relocation of an inmate.