We all want to believe that the justice system works. We rely on the integrity and honesty of those involved in law enforcement and prosecution. But still it happens that innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit. In fact, according to Innocence Project executive director Mike Ware, as many as 5,000- 6,000 innocent people are behind bars in Texas alone.
How is this possible? As technology evolves the levels probability and accuracy in DNA testing also increase. Before, even the best DNA technology would report that there was a “chance” that someone was guilty. Now, new technology can eliminate DNA if there is little to no probability that it belongs to someone. A software program created by Cybergenetics called TrueAllele is able to do this. Unlike humans, who have bias and are prone to error, this new software can analyze DNA samples from unidentified victims and create a highly accurate report as to who the DNA does or does not belong to.
When this technology is paired with the FBI’s database CODIS, the likelihood of determining whose DNA is in any given sample becomes very high.
The Lydell Grant case and DNA
Lydell Grant was convicted of stabbing Aaron Scheerhoorn outside a Houston gay bar in 2010. There was no evidence that pointed to Grant except for eyewitness testimony and a tip about a vehicle that matched the vehicle that was at the scene of the crime.
Grant did not know the victim. Grant had an alibi. The DNA sample from under the victim’s fingernails did not match that of Grant, but prosecutors said that it still could not be dismissed. There was no physical evidence to link Grant to the stabbing, nor were there any incriminating footprints or fingerprints. There was no video, no weapon and most compelling of all, no motive. Even though law enforcement received numerous tips about another suspect they failed to follow up on them. When a new DNA test showed that the Grant could not have been the murderer, he was released on bail in November, 2019, after serving nearly a decade in jail.
Exoneration is difficult to achieve after a conviction
Being convicted of a crime you didn’t commit is a nightmare no one should experience. Trying to rebuild a career, a family, friends and a place in the community is often hindered by the years spent behind bars and a lingering criminal record. Law enforcement, prosecutors and even crime labs make mistakes.These people are often driven to get a conviction at any cost. This is why it is so important to never trust that the system will find the truth for you. A skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney is often the best first step to avoid a wrongful conviction. As of July, 2020, Lydell Grant has still not been exonerated. This, even after Jermarico Carter confessed and DNA evidence confirmed his guilt.