14 Nov Another Project 6 Client Released!
In 2012, Steven Lewis was sentenced to 170 years in prison for his alleged involvement in a single home invasion on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, in which nobody was seriously injured and only $20 was stolen.
Steven wrote to Project 6 asking for help in the fight for his freedom. Not only was he facing the devastating prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison – without even the possibility of parole – but also Steven’s young son faced the grim prospect of growing up without his father present.
Project 6’s investigation quickly revealed some troubling aspects to this case. For example, all of Steven’s codefendants took plea deals for less than 20 years in prison. In contrast, Steven exercised his constitutional right to a jury trial, and he was sentenced to almost nine times more prison time.
Equally troubling was the fact that, prior to trial, the State withheld important alibi evidence. The Constitution requires that any evidence tending to exonerate a Defendant (Brady evidence) must be turned over to the Defense. By failing to do so, the State violated Steven’s constitutional due process, and thereby undermined the legitimacy of the conviction.
Don Salzman, a partner at the DC law firm Skadden, agreed to take on the case pro bono. Don put together a formidable team, including multiple attorneys, paralegals, and an investigator. The team poured a huge amount of resources into Steven’s case and filed a blockbuster post-conviction petition, arguing numerous constitutional violations.
The team also took the case to the local state’s attorney, who agreed that the withheld exculpatory evidence tainted the conviction. After negotiations with the State, Steven agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit burglary. The judge resentenced Steven to, effectively, time served. After serving approximately 11 years of his original 170 sentence, Steven was able to return home to his family.
Steven’s case is a stark reminder of the injustice that persists in our system. Many men and women, like Steven, are over-sentenced and doomed to pay a disproportionate price for a crime they may have committed on their worst day. Project 6 is committed to fighting for these people, who often get left behind and forgotten.
Project 6 is hugely grateful to Skadden for taking on this important case and for securing Steven’s freedom. Steven should never have been given such a lengthy prison sentence and Project 6 is happy to have played a part in bringing him home.