Court proceedings may include life-size replica of crime scene
ST. JOSEPH — To illustrate the crime scene where a Niles Township woman was fatally shot on Aug. 13, Berrien County court council intends to create a life-size replica of the room for John Lewis’ jury trial, which is scheduled for the end of February.
Berrien County Prosecutor Jerry Vigansky presented the replica idea to Berrien County Judge Donna Howard Friday morning, during defendant Lewis’ extended case conference.
“I thought it would be very beneficial for the court and for the jury,” Vigansky said.
He said the model, which would be 9-foot by 7-foot in size would be portable and that he expected to make it present for only a portion of the trial.
Lewis is facing life in prison, after being charged with first-degree pre-meditated murder following the death of his wife, Carla Lewis. The 55-year-old woman was found with a gunshot wound to the head at the couple’s residence at 1429 Lawndale Ave. Authorities found Carla and Lewis in what appeared to be a disguised room off the basement laundry room. The room had a bookcase for a door and inside there were seven marijuana plants being grown. When authorities found Carla, she was in a crouched position with her head on a planter. Lewis was nearby, uninjured and told officers that Carla was not breathing, according to witness testimony at an earlier case conference.
Lewis was arrested following his wife’s death because of noncompliance with medical marijuana laws. He was growing the plants legally, but broke the law when he allowed other people to tend to his plants.
Chief Public Defender Carl Macpherson said he and Vigansky had discussed the model that morning.
“I don’t believe I would have an objection to it,” Macpherson said.
For accuracy, Macpherson said he wanted to be able to compare the replica to the room at 1429 Lawndale Ave. to assure that it was being represented fairly.
Howard gave the council permission to look into the idea further and get measurements. She said there would have to be an agreement on any differences, if any, between the replica and actual room.
Vigansky said the room would be presented to the court by the officers who responded to the scene on Aug. 13.
Howard questioned what the timeline would be to create the model and Vigansky said he did not anticipate the model’s creation to delay the proceedings. An update on the model’s progress will be presented at Lewis’ next continued case conference which is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 22.
Lewis will also appear for a status conference at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 12. His jury trial is expected to take place from Feb. 20 to March 2. The court appearances will take place at the Berrien County Courthouse, 811 Port St. in St. Joseph.