A Black man in Texas was staring at a long prison sentence for a murder he did not commit but an emerging DNA analysis technology set him free and led investigators to another suspect in an unprecedented case that is raising questions about convictions in the U.S. justice system.
Lydell Grant, 42, was set free in November after serving nine years in prison when the DNA evidence used to convict him was reanalyzed using an emerging software that has come under scrutiny for its value in solving cold cases.
The re-examination of the evidence led to the discovery of a new suspect, who has been charged after police said he confessed.
Texas has long led the country in the number of people it exonerates or clears of convictions, based on evidence of innocence.
Since 2010, more than 200 people have been exonerated in Texas, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. That’s more than twice as many as any other state during the same period.
African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites.
If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40 percent, according to the NAACP criminal justice fact sheet.
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The Innocence Project estimates that between 2.3 percent and 5 percent of the 2.4 million prisoners across the U.S. are innocent.
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“There’s probably 5,000 or 6,000 innocent people in Texas prisons alone,” said lawyer Mike Ware, executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas, which is representing Grant.
“How many of them could benefit from such a reanalysis of DNA that was used to convict them? I don’t really know, but this is a historic case that could open the door for those who thought it was shut forever.”
Grant’s attorneys are hopeful that a ruling to officially exonerate him will be made in the coming weeks, according to TheRoot.