No longer accused, man ready to mourn slain twin

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Derris Lewis never got the chance to mourn the death of his identical twin brother, Dennis, after he was shot and killed last year. Now he finally can.

A prosecutor dropped charges Thursday against Lewis, who was accused of killing his 17-year-old brother during a dispute, after tests cast doubt on the key piece of evidence — a palm print that was believed to have been cast in blood.

“I feel no one can understand my pain that I’ve been through,” Lewis said after he was released from the Franklin County jail, where he had been locked up for more than a year.

“I’m still standing, and I have to move on, and I can finally grieve over my brother because we were really, really, really close,” he said.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said tests show that the print of defendant Derris Lewis’ palm found in the bedroom where the January 2008 shooting happened was not bloody, after all.

The print was on the wall before the slaying, something Lewis’ attorney had long argued. The twins shared the bedroom for four years.

Prosecutors alleged that Dennis Lewis died in a fight with his brother, possibly over money Dennis was saving for a car. Police said they believed Derris acted alone but didn’t say why they believe he killed his brother.

O’Brien said he would reopen the case if evidence emerged implicating Lewis or anyone else.

“But at the present time I have no reason to believe, as shown by the evidence, that he was involved,” he said.

It’s been a long, painful process for Lewis, who said he plans to enroll this fall at Ohio State University, where he was previously accepted, to study business. He said he has no idea who killed his brother.

“They had the wrong person the whole entire time,” Lewis said. “This whole situation is so unfortunate.”

Prosecutors had the palm print tested after two Columbus police experts gave conflicting testimony about the print and whether it was in a bloodstained area of the wall.

When the test, completed Thursday, found no blood, O’Brien said he had no choice but to drop the charges.

Lewis had pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping in the death of his brother in a robbery at their mother’s house in Columbus.

Both brothers, high school seniors at the time, were active in sports, band and theater. Friends, family and teachers described them as best friends, like peas in a pod. Derris gave interviews shortly after his brother’s death saying he forgave Dennis’ killer.

Prosecutors said fingerprints and the bloody palm print linked Derris to the crime. They also implied he returned to the home days later and pretended to find $283 in cash in an envelope in his brother’s bedroom.

Police have said they thoroughly searched the home the day of the shooting and never saw such an envelope.

The defense says Derris Lewis was sleeping in his apartment miles from the slaying, and three witnesses testified he was home at the time.

The defense also identified an alternate suspect and said police had not ruled out the suspect’s gun as the murder weapon.

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