Man wrongfully convicted in 1996 Philadelphia murder awarded nearly $6.3M, formal apology

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Twenty-two years after Terrance Lewis was wrongfully convicted of second-degree murder, the city of Philadelphia awarded him nearly $6.3 million and a formal apology Tuesday.

"The settlement can never repair or restore what has occurred in my life — period," Lewis told WHYY, while also conceding the award left him "speechless" and that had he been standing when he received the news, his knees "would have buckled."

Lewis, now 41, was only 17 when he was sentenced to life in prison, and he spent 21 years fighting to prove his innocence before being released in May 2019 after Common Pleas Judge Barbara McDermott finally threw out the conviction, WPVI reported.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told WPVI the $6.25 million settlement can never give Lewis those years back, but it will fund his work to help others who are wrongly convicted.

“I know that money alone cannot compensate Mr. Lewis and his family for the 21 years he spent incarcerated. And I know that much more must be done to reform our criminal justice system and to help the families and communities that have been torn apart by instances in which the system didn’t work,” Kenney said.

Indeed, Lewis called the settlement a "kind gesture" but told WHYY that missing the funerals of several close family members during his incarceration can never be made right.

“Up until this day, there’s still a hole in my heart that I wasn’t able to say my goodbyes,” Lewis said, referring to the 2012 death of his sister from a drug overdose and the 2013 deaths of both his younger brother and stepfather from cancer.

In addition to ensuring his son, Zhaire, resumes his formal education, Lewis told WHYY he plans to build up the Terrance Lewis Liberation Foundation, which he founded to help others who have been released from prison after being wrongfully convicted.

Read more here.

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