New DNA evidence helps Houston man serving life sentence to be granted bail
HOUSTON - A Houston man serving life in prison for a 2010 murder has been granted bond, Tuesday thanks to new DNA evidence in the case.
Lydell Grant, 42, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 28-year-old Aaron Scheerhoorn, who was stabbed to death outside a Montrose bar in 2010.
“The last nine years, man I felt like an animal in a cage. Especially knowing that I didn’t do it; knowing that the actual killer was still roaming the streets, knowing that my family was suffering. But with God and I gotta keep saying with God, it was all good,” said Grant. “I want to believe that the Harris County DA's office will go ahead and exonerate me because of the evidence and the investigation of the case. It proves itself."
The Innocence Project of Texas took on Grant's case and found that at his original trial, the prosecutor’s DNA expert mistakenly and inaccurately testified that Grant could not be excluded as the contributor of the DNA found under the stabbing victim’s fingernails.
“I kept God first, and I just knew it would be this day. I dream of this day for the holidays where my son would be here with me and my family. This is such a happy day for us,” Donna Poe, Grant's mother, said.
The project says new DNA testing, which included recent testing done by the Texas Department of Public Safety's lab in Houston, confirmed that the trial testimony in 2012 presented by the prosecutors was inaccurate and false and that Grant is completely excluded as the contributor.
Grant always maintained his innocence.
“I never knew Aaron. Never seen him a day in my life. Never had an encounter with him. But the justice system, the district attorney's office, and the prosecutor painted a big, big picture for the jury and they believed her lies. And they convicted me wrongfully,” said Grant.
However, Grant said he does not resent or have any bitter feelings towards those who wrongfully convicted him. But he does advise those in a similar situation to never give up.
“If you’re actually innocent or if you’re innocent of any kind of crime, write and write and write and write. Have faith and have hope,” said Grant.
Grant returned home just in time to spend Thanksgiving with his family, who recognize their fight is far from over.
“We haven’t had him for a long, long time. We are up for a fight, so we are going all the way. All the way,” said Donna Poe, Grant’s mother.
“We're confident; very confident that he will be ultimately exonerated. It's just that we have ways to go and a lot of work to do,” said Ware.
When asked what he’s most looking forward to, Grant said he just wants peace and quiet because he hasn’t had that in the last nine and a half years. Grant is required to wear an ankle monitor while he’s out on bond per judge’s orders.
In a statement, the Innocence Project of Texas said:
“After 20 years of DNA exonerations of wrongfully convicted men and women, we now know that ‘eye-witness identification’ is, in fact, highly unreliable and has led to 100’s of tragic wrongful convictions, and those are just the ones we know about. There are many reasons an eyewitness can misidentify. It really does not make a big difference whether there is one identification or six. The DNA exonerations have established that they can all be wrong.
One cause of misidentification is the police conducting a photo-spread may use techniques proven to cause misidentification, which is exactly what was done in this case. There are many other issues concerning the unreliability of these eye-witness identifications. The biggest issue is that sound forensic DNA testing has now proven that the identifications were made in error.”
The District Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Division is now conducting a comprehensive review of all evidence in the case to assess Grant’s claim of actual innocence.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Man claims he was wrongfully convicted of stabbing murder; Innocence Project of Texas steps in
The reinvestigation by prosecutors and Houston Police has already taken hundreds of hours.
“The highest responsibility of a prosecutor is to see that justice is done,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “To accomplish that end, our Conviction Integrity Division and Houston Police are working methodically to determine how the DNA discovered under Scheerhoorn’s fingernails got there, and whether the new evidence exonerates Grant of Scheerhoorn’s murder, notwithstanding the eyewitness identifications of the individuals at the scene of the crime.”
Grant was released on a $100,000 bond.