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City pays student nearly $1M after botched case of murdered twin

The Columbus City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a mediated settlement of $950,000 to compensate an Ohio State student for jail time and being charged with the murder of his twin brother. His mother will also receive a portion of the settlement.

Derris Lewis, a first-year in business, was originally charged with the murder of his brother a month after his death in January 2008.

Dennis Lewis was shot and killed by masked intruders at his Columbus home.

Charges were dropped in August 2009 after evidence involving a bloody handprint was found not to have been made in his brother’s blood. In February, city officials and Lewis’s attorneys reached a mediated agreement.

“It was a communication breakdown” between units, Police Chief Walter Distelzweig said to the council members. “That failure in communication is why we’re here,” he said. The chief said he is personally reviewing procedures, and changes are being implemented.

I think it’s really important to acknowledge some mistakes were made,” councilwoman Priscilla Tyson said. “We’ve learned from our mistakes and now we’re going to have a change in protocol.”

“There’s anger, there’s hurt, there’s frustration,” councilwoman Charleta Tavares said about the family.

“I would like to say that I regret that Mr. Lewis was incarcerated for the 18 months,” Public Safety Director Mitchell Brown said.

Not everyone at the City Council meeting thought it was a mistake that Lewis was charged with the murder.

“This is nothing but a cover up to me,” Barry Edney said to the council. Edney is a representative from the Community Leadership Council for Justice.

“I don’t believe this was a mistake,” Edney said. He said part of the problem is racial profiling related to crimes.

A Franklin County court declared a mistrial last March after a jury member left after a death in the family. No alternate jurors were available to continue the trial.

Brown said, “We never want to put someone in prison for something they didn’t do.” 

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