Judge Rules Fatal Stabbing Case Has Enough Evidence to Go to Trial

A DC Superior Court judge ruled that a homicide case has enough evidence to go to trial.

James Lewis is charged with second-degree murder while armed for allegedly stabbing 30-year-old Brenea Franklin to death on the night of Jan. 30 on the 1100 block of Bellevue Street, SE.

During the Aug. 2 hearing, the prosecution played surveillance footage showing the 43-year-old defendant’s van as it enters the block, parks and turns its headlights off at around 10:25 p.m. The lights in the vehicle then come on and there appears to be movement inside before a shadow emerges, stumbles away from the vehicle and collapses where Franklin’s body was later found.

A Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) detective on the case testified that a witness who has known Lewis for about 20 years identified him from surveillance footage of his van.

Defense attorney Bernadette Armand argued the video was too blurry and indistinct to identify a face, but the detective maintained that the witness “was adamant about it.”

The detective testified that, at the time of the homicide, Lewis was living in his van, which MPD officers later recovered.

The prosecution said that Lewis sent text messages asking for help cleaning up his van, which had bloodstains on the passenger seat and soaked into the carpet on the passenger side. She also said that the witness who provided the identification said she never saw anyone besides Lewis drive the van.

Armand argued that the footage is not enough to identify the driver as Lewis and that the involvement of Lewis’ van is not enough to conclude that Lewis was the one driving it. She also said that, even though Lewis sent text messages about cleaning up his van, the texts were not sent until 12 hours after the incident, as if he had just discovered the situation.

Judge Neal Kravitz found probable cause but said the witnesses’ identification from the surveillance footage was “subject to challenge.”

“There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence in this case,” said Judge Kravitz.

Lewis is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 9.