1 year later, innocent man still waiting to be exonerated

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A former judge who served on the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals says the wait on Lydell Grant's case seems unusually long.

Grant, who was freed from prison last November after DNA proved he was not Aaron Scheerhorn's killer, was released from prison on a $100,000 bond.

He was declared innocent from the murder of Scheerhorn by the Houston Police Department, the District Attorney and a trial court judge, after newly tested DNA evidence showed his profile was not a match.

It appears the stakes couldn't be higher for Grant, but after one year, he is still waiting on the Criminal Court of Appeals to exonerate him.

"I think there's a callousness in its failure to timely reach the only decision it can possibly reach," said former judge Esla Alcala.

Alcala served on the CCA from 2011-2018.

RELATED: Lydell Grant waits for exoneration after DNA proves he didn't commit murder

"I've never seen a case this strong," she said. "In this case, this should have been a two, three or four-month turnaround."

It has now been 12 months since Grant has been waiting to be exonerated.

"I think it's exceptionally long given the strength of the evidence showing that Lydell Grant is innocent," said Alcala

The process for exoneration, as she explains, starts when the defense files a writ of habeas for the court to look over the case and determine whether or not the defendant should be exonerated. The court then makes one of three decisions: An outright denial, granting the defendant a new trial, or finding that the defendant is innocent and granting exoneration.

The decision is made based on the strength of new evidence presented.

In Grant's case, that is newly tested DNA and a confession from who prosecutors say is Scheehorn's actual killer, 42-year old Jermarico Carter.

The evidence must be what the court calls "clear and convincing."

"I actually think it's more than clear and convincing evidence. I actually think that it's beyond reasonable doubt that Lydell Grant is innocent," said Alcala.

The hold up in Grant's case appears to be the recent orders from the court. In one, they have requested new affidavits from all six of the eyewitnesses who testified against Grant nearly a decade ago.

"It's just a colossal waste of resources to go and track down six people when we know from the strength of the other evidence that they're just wrong," says Alcala.

SEE RELATED STORY: Man free after serving 9-years for a crime he didn't commit

It was those six eyewitnesses who identified Grant as the killer in 2010 through a photo spread lineup.

According to the Innocence Project of Texas, mistaken eyewitness identifications contributed to more than 70% of the more than 360 wrongful convictions in the U.S. that have been overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence.

"My initial reaction in looking over the case was, this a clearly a potential mistake in eyewitness identity case," said the executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas Mike Ware.

Ware has helped exonerate 27 wrongfully convicted Texans since 2006.

"Not only did the DNA exclude Lydell Grant as being the perpetrator, it identified the actual perpetrator who actually confessed to it," he said.

The Criminal Court of Appeals has not commented on the longevity of Grants case. They have only pointed to the pending requested orders submitted.

Follow Stefania Okolie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.