Software Finds Murder Convict Innocent

By Mark A. Kellner | Posted February 18, 2020

Lydell Grant of Houston, Texas, planned to consume a lot of turkey this past Thanksgiving. That might not sound extraordinary, but for Grant it was quite special.

He’d been released on bail after serving 10 years of a life sentence for a murder he didn’t commit. After an organization known as the Innocence Project researched Grant’s case, it employed a new computer algorithm called TrueAllele to retest Grant’s DNA. The new test results? Grant’s DNA did not match that of the alleged killer. A judge then ordered Grant to be released from jail.

The Human Element in Our Justice System

“I feel free now. It was a long time coming,” Grant told KPRC-TV in Houston. “I always claimed my innocence. I thank God (for) the Innocence Project. They believed in me. They took my case and they worked it.”

Not only was TrueAllele integral in clearing Grant’s name, it also helped scientists match the DNA to another man, Jermarico Carter, who left Houston shortly after the killing. A month after the new test results, Carter confessed to the crime, beginning procedures for Grant’s total exoneration.

Grant’s ordeal began in 2010, when a man named Aaron Scheerhoorn was stabbed multiple times outside a Houston bar. Eyewitnesses described an assailant who was a black male, around 6 feet tall, and aged 25 to 30. Grant, who was 33 at the time with a criminal record, was arrested. Selected by the majority of witnesses out of a photo lineup, he was then put on trial, where his alibi’s testimony failed to convince the jury. Grant was sentenced to life in prison.

Grant credited his faith with helping him to survive a false imprisonment: “The last nine years, man, I felt like an animal in a cage, especially knowing that I didn’t do it,” he told reporters. “Knowing that the actual killer was still roaming the streets. Knowing that my family was suffering. It was hard. But with God, I gotta keep saying, with God, it was all, all good.”

In the years since Grant’s imprisonment, there has been marked improvement in the field of forensic science, as computer software programs have taken precedence over human analysts. But this recent development also begs the question: How many other people have been wrongfully sentenced due to human error?

Apparently, there may be thousands of falsely convicted prisoners in the Texas system alone. The Innocence Project and organizations like them certainly have their work cut out for them.

But there is also mounting controversy over TrueAllele and similar computer programs. TrueAllele’s complex source code is disclosed only to its own company and is therefore unavailable to such parties as, for example, the prosecution. In order for these programs to be entirely trustworthy and unbiased, others say, their source codes must be made public. Again, we run into the problem of human error—whether accidental or purposeful. 

How can a Christian be secure in the judgment?

The Crime Our DNA Proves

So the problem, as usual, comes back to us, fallen humanity. And the fact is that every human being who has ever lived, from the time of Adam and Eve until today, carries an inherent sentence: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” says Romans 3:23. We are all guilty of sin. Although Lydell Grant was not guilty of Scheerhoorn’s murder, he was nevertheless guilty of other crimes—crimes such as aggravated robbery, use of drugs, and theft. While we may not be convicted for our crimes, we are in the same boat as Grant: None of us is innocent. 

No amount of community service, no length of time in prison, not even an earthly death penalty can pay for these wrongs. The judgment rendered in Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death.” That death is not merely the death that comes to all flesh in this life; it is the second death, the eternal separation from God. That is the price that must be paid.

There is good news though. The second part of Romans 6:23 reads, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God has given us a way out of sin and its sentence.

Pastor Doug Batchelor presented a series of studies on the Book of Romans, a letter written by the apostle Paul that fully outlines the human condition and makes plain the way of salvation. Especially invaluable is his message entitled “Justification by Faith.” We are justified, not by our good works or our charity, but by our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. We can either accept the gift of Jesus, who by His death paid the penalty for us, or not.

No matter how much we try to eliminate human error, no matter how many computer algorithms are used, there will still be injustice. Only when Jesus returns will sin finally be completely eradicated. But through God each of us is able to have victory over the sin in our lives right now, right here on this earth! Watch another message in this series, “No Condemnation,” for a critically important lesson on Romans 8 discussing this very topic. As Pastor Doug says, “It’s God who is working through you through the Holy Spirit that’s able to strengthen you to obey and resist temptation. And of course, the Holy Spirit is available 24/7 at all times, at all places.”

Lydell Grant is anxiously awaiting for full exoneration here and now, but the real judgment for each of us has yet to occur. Do you want to be fully exonerated before God? You can, through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Mark Kellner
Mark A. Kellner is a staff writer for Amazing Facts International. He is a veteran journalist whose work has been published in Religion News Service, The Washington Times, and numerous computer magazines.

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