Ohio Police Apologize, Pay for False Accusation

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 31, 2010 12:45 PM

If only the real CSI in Columbus, Ohio, was as slick as those guys on the show(s). A major mistake and lack of communication between the city's CSI team and detectives investigating the murder of Dennis Lewis led them to falsely accuse his twin brother Derris of the crime. On March 29, the Columbus City Council approved a settlement of $950,000 to compensate Derris Lewis for his ordeal.  

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Dennis Lewis was shot and killed when the brothers' home was broken into by intruders in January of 2008. During the investigation, two separate palm prints, one made by Derris before the night of the crime, and one made by the victim in his own blood, were mistakenly assumed by investigators to be the same piece of evidence. The mistake was not discovered until Derris's retrial was slated to begin last August.

On TV, the CSI wizards solve their crimes and get the (correct) guy every time with the use of incredibly high tech toys. The real CSI unit of the Columbus police department is going to improve its own performance in an incredibly low tech way. According to The Dispatch, from now on, Police Chief Walter Distelzweig will require homicide detectives and crime-scene investigators to walk together through crime scenes at the beginning of an investigation. They also will be required to discuss the evidence again before opening the scene back up to public access.

A CSI consultant has been brought in to recommend further changes to the department's procedures. Chief Distelzweig is reviewing the recommendations including the proposal that the Police Division seek accreditation for its search unit to ensure that it follows the newly recommended practices.

Derris Lewis' attorneys called the settlement fair and welcomed changes in police procedures. Meanwhile, the falsely accused man is moving on with his life. The Dispatch writes Lewis, now 20, earned a 3.8 grade average in his first semester at Ohio State University.

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