Ross Feller Casey has filed a major wrongful conviction and imprisonment lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia on behalf of a man who spent 21 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.
The case involves Terrance Lewis, 40, who was released from the State Corrections Institution Chester earlier this year after having his conviction vacated. Lewis was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1999 after being falsely convicted of having a role in a 1996 murder in West Philadelphia.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleges among other things wide-ranging police misconduct, including witness coercion, false testimony and evidence that was hidden from the defense. The case names as defendants the city of Philadelphia and two detectives, James Hughes and Thomas Kane.
In order to make their case against Lewis, the detectives “improperly used their power and positions to coerce witnesses into making false statements and identifications, and to offer sworn testimony that they knew to be false but that was consistent with (their) theory of the crime,” according to the lawsuit.
The detectives “also withheld exculpatory evidence that would have demonstrated Mr. Lewis' innocence and deliberately disregarded information and evidence that would have demonstrated flaws in the case against him, thereby causing Mr. Lewis to spend more than 21 years wrongfully incarcerated for a murder that he did not commit,” the suit states.
Lewis, who had fought his case through the court system for years, was released in May after a judge who was reviewing the conviction threw it out. The District Attorney’s Office then decided it would not retry the case, adding it had “determined that there has indeed been a miscarriage of justice.”
In all, Lewis, who went to jail as a teenager, spent a total of 21 year, five months and five days in prison.
The suit was filed by Robert Ross, a founding partner of Ross Feller Casey, and firm attorney Kevin Harden, Jr., who was part of a legal team that had championed Lewis’ case pro bono for a decade.
The case is just one of several high-profiled lawsuits filed recently by Ross Feller Casey involving wrongful convictions in Philadelphia.
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