HOUSTON – A Houston man who had been convicted in a 2010 fatal stabbing but was later eliminated as the killer by DNA evidence was declared innocent on Wednesday by Texas’ highest criminal court.
The ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals came after a new analysis of DNA found on the victim’s fingernails pointed to Lydell Grant’s innocence.
Grant was convicted in the death of 28-year-old Aaron Scheerhoorn, who was stabbed outside a Houston bar. Six eyewitnesses to the stabbing testified against Grant at trial. He was convicted in 2012.
Grant, 44, had served seven years of a life sentence when he was freed on bond in 2019 to await the appeals court’s decision.
During a news conference Wednesday, Grant thanked God and said he was grateful to be declared innocent as he had expected to die in prison.
“I knew this day was going to come and I just didn’t know when,” Grant said.
Mike Ware, who is the executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas and one of Grant’s attorneys, thanked the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for its work in helping exonerate Grant.
“It’s a huge day for justice,” Ware said.
Police have arrested Jermarico Carter, 43, for Scheerhoorn’s killing and he remains jailed in Houston awaiting trial. Authorities say Carter, who was tracked down in Atlanta, confessed to the killing.
“The exoneration of innocent individuals is as important as the conviction of guilty ones,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. “The highest responsibility of a prosecutor is to see that justice is done.”
The ruling by the appeals court means Grant can apply for $80,000 in state compensation for each year of his wrongful imprisonment.
Grant said he plans on getting a degree in audio engineering and pursuing a music career. He is also writing a book about his experience.
But Grant said while he’s ready to move forward with his life, he is still affected by his experience and remains cautious, making sure that whenever he goes to a store he gets a receipt to prove he was there and to show what time he went.
“And it’s crazy because now I got to live like that because of what I’ve been through,” Grant said. “But I don’t ask for no sympathy from no one. I don’t ask for nobody to feel sorry for me because I’m strong and God, he endured and sustained me... and I’m just thankful.”
Ware has said he believes erroneous eyewitness identifications based on outdated and flawed techniques used by police detectives helped to wrongly convict Grant.
Mistaken eyewitness identifications contributed to about 69% of the more than 375 wrongful convictions in the U.S. that have been overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project.
The fingernail evidence the cleared Grant was retested with more advanced technology than had been available during the initial investigation. The retesting resulted in a hit on the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System that pointed to Carter, according to authorities.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70