Texas Court of Criminal Appeals balks at Houston man's actual innocence claims
The state’s highest criminal appeals court has ordered further investigation into the actual innocence claims of a Houston man convicted of murdering a man outside a popular Montrose bar.
Lydell Grant was sentenced to life in prison for stabbing Aaron Scheerhoorn outside Blur Bar in 2010, a conviction that was largely based on the testimony of six eyewitnesses.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered Grant’s case back to the original trial court Wednesday, asking “the record should be further developed.”
That court, Harris County’s 351st district court presided by state District Judge George Powell, is ordered to obtain affidavits about Grant’s innocence from those six witnesses who picked him out of a photo lineup in 2010.
Grant was released from prison last November. With the help of the Innocence Project of Texas, a reanalysis of a DNA profile found under Scheerhoorn’s fingernails showed Grant wasn’t included in the mixture. Further analysis pointed to another man, Jermarico Carter, who later confessed to the murder shortly after Grant’s release, court records show.
Mike Ware, Grant’s lawyer and executive director of IPTX, said he’s “never seen anything like it” in his 30 years working wrongful convictions.
“I’ve been involved in probably over 30 post-conviction exonerations,” Ware said. “This is what DNA exonerations look like. It doesn’t look any better.”
The court of criminal appeals is also asking Powell’s court to review any photos available of Carter in the years before and after Scheerhoorn’s murder.
Grant has maintained his innocence since his arrest in December 2010 and eventually got the Innocence Project of Texas to look at his case. IPTX is a non-profit organization that provides free legal support to people wrongfully convicted in prison.
IPTX ordered the DNA testing, which excluded Grant from the mixture under Scheerhoorn’s fingernail. That DNA was later uploaded into the FBI’s national CODIS DNA database, which provided a hit on Carter.
The Houston Police Department then began a re-investigation of the case and interviewed Carter after an arrest in Atlanta, Georgia. Court records show that Carter confessed to the murder, but said Scheerhoorn was the original attacker. Carter was arrested and extradited back to Harris County, where he’s currently awaiting trial.
After Carter’s arrest, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said it would fully support Grant’s exoneration.
Judge Powell later agreed with the district attorney’s office and sent the case to the court of criminal appeals on Jan. 2 this year. For seven months it’s sat with the appeals court, which issued its order today back to Powell’s court.
The appeals court has asked Powell's court to submit its findings within 90 days.
Check back tomorrow for updates on this story. In the meantime, here’s more background on Lydell’s case.