COLUMBUS,Ohio – The trial of a man accused of fatally shooting his identical twin brother began Tuesday with prosecutors revealing new fingerprints linking the man to the killing while the defendant's lawyer insisted another man had masterminded the attack.
Derris Lewis, 19, has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. He is charged with participating in a January 2008 robbery in which his twin brother, Dennis, was savagely beaten with a wooden stool and shot in the head. If convicted, Derris Lewis could face life in prison.
The twins' mother told police that several masked men entered her house early on Jan. 18, 2008, held her at gunpoint, ransacked the house and then shot Dennis after breaking into his bedroom.
Police and prosecutors have long pinned their case on a bloody palm print found in Dennis Lewis' bedroom. They say the print matches Derris Lewis' palm, placing him at the scene.
Identical twins share the same DNA but have different fingerprints.
Tim Mitchell, an assistant Franklin County prosecutor, said Tuesday that police also found two fingerprints on a mirror and wall that match those of Derris Lewis.
The crime scene was off-limits by the time Derris Lewis arrived, Mitchell said, meaning there was no way he could have entered and left prints after the shooting.
He echoed the mother's story that multiple attackers broke into the house. That version is at odds with the conclusion by police that Derris Lewis acted alone.
Mitchell did not address the discrepancy in court. A message left Tuesday with the prosecutor's office was not immediately returned.
Defense attorney Adam Nemann said police found several other prints that could belong to people who have not yet been identified.
He said he will call witnesses who will identify the person who spearheaded the robbery at the Lewis' house that night. Nemann said police have tested that person's gun and have not been able to rule it out as the murder weapon.
Nemann has filed court documents saying three people will testify Derris Lewis was at a house on the south side of Columbus miles from where his mother and brother lived when the shooting happened. Derris Lewis had moved out of his mother's house several weeks earlier to live with his girlfriend.
But Derris remained best friends with his brother, picking him up each day to go to school where they were active in sports and the marching band.
"This was a close family," Nemann said. "We want you to hear the whole truth."