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  • Writer's pictureMatt Keyser

The wrongful conviction of Lydell Grant

Grant spent more than seven years of a life sentence in prison for killing a man outside a Houston bar. Now free on bond—and a confessed killer in jail—he’s fighting to clear his name.

GRAY CLOUDS HUNG heavy over downtown Houston the day Lydell Grant walked out of jail. It was just after 4 in the afternoon when he stepped out the doors with his mother and brother by his side, surrounded by family, friends, and his lawyers. He raised one arm in the air and gave a fist pump with the other as “free at last!” chants filled the street. He wore a black polo shirt—unbuttoned and untucked over his black jeans—that covered his linebacker’s build. It was a stark difference from earlier that morning when he stood before a judge in an orange jumpsuit, his bald head shining under the courtroom lights with his hands cuffed behind his back, as the judge listed his bond conditions.

A smile stretched across his clean-shaven face as he approached a scrum of reporters who barraged him with questions about his newly found freedom days before Thanksgiving. What were his plans? “Eat a big, big turkey” and “peach cobbler” and “spend time with my family,” he said with an arm over his mother’s shoulder and his fingers intertwined with hers. What does he have to say to the people who sent him to prison? “I don’t have any bitterness in my heart for them.” What’s next as investigators take another look at the decade-old murder case against him? “I feel rejuvenated. I feel free now. It was a long time coming. I always claimed my innocence.”

It was a picture-perfect moment, the kind he imagined for all the years he sat locked away “like an animal in a cage,” waiting to proclaim his innocence to the world. Years earlier, he was sentenced to life in prison after six eyewitnesses said he repeatedly stabbed a man to death outside a crowded Houston nightclub. But with the help of a new set of lawyers with the Innocence Project of Texas, Grant, now 43, had been given a second chance. DNA found under the victim’s fingernails pointed to another man with a violent past—one that, police would later learn, involved more stabbings.

​But for the first time in years, Grant could momentarily put that all in the back of his mind and focus on his freedom as he stood in the warm, humid air. “Thank you, Lord,” he said, in what’s become his personal catchphrase. When asked about his plans after leaving the jail, Grant smiled, two dimples piercing his high cheeks, and said he wanted one thing: quietness. “I want to be away from everything and everybody and just let God talk to me and just meditate and just enjoy the peace and quiet.”

Something he didn’t have for the past nine and a half years.

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