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$2 Million in Settlements for Wrongful Arrest, Conviction in Ohio

Two former Ohio prisoners have accepted settlements totaling $2 million after being wrongly imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. One of the men, Derris Lewis, spent 18 months in jail pending trial on murder charges. The other, Robert McClendon, served 18 years in prison for rape.

Lewis was arrested for the murder of his 17-year-old twin brother, Dennis Lewis, who was shot and killed by masked intruders in his mother’s home on the morning of January 18, 2008. His mother, who was wheelchair-bound, was held at gunpoint while the robbers ransacked the house, confronted Dennis and fatally shot him.

A Franklin County jury deadlocked on the aggravated murder charge on March 9, 2009, resulting in a mistrial. Afterwards, prosecutors and Columbus police concluded that a palm print from Derris, which they had introduced to prove their case, had not been left in his brother’s blood inside his mother’s home as they originally thought.

“On behalf of the Department of Public Safety and the Division of Police, I want to apologize to Mr. Lewis and his family for the mistake that was made during the homicide investigation of Dennis Lewis,” said Columbus Public Safety Director Mitch Brown. “Today’s settlement is a clear acknowledgement that a mistake was made, and we wish Mr. Lewis the best of luck in his future endeavors.”

The February 10, 2010 settlement agreement with the City of Columbus was reached without a lawsuit, but Lewis’ attorneys filed a complaint in federal court in case there was a problem with having the settlement approved by the city council.

Lewis will receive $950,000 but elected to take an interest-bearing annuity with payments over 20 years, which will pay approximately $1.2 million. See: Lewis v. Young, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Ohio), Case No. 2:10-cv-00125-ALM-EPD.

In the other case, Robert McClendon, 54, received $1.1 million from Ohio officials after he was wrongly convicted and spent 18 years in prison. He was released in August 2008 upon receiving assistance from the Ohio Innocence Project, which used DNA evidence to clear him of the 1991 abduction and rape of a female relative.

McClendon settled his claims against the state in May 2010; he had sought compensation as a “wrongly imprisoned individual” pursuant to ORC § 2743.48. See: McClendon v. State of Ohio, Court of Claims of Ohio, Case No. 2009-02073-WI.

Sources: Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press

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Related legal cases

Lewis v. Young

McClendon v. State of Ohio