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“Inmate allowed to leave custody: Man cleared by DNA

tests is reunited with his family after court hearing”

Houston Chronicle
Thursday, July 31, 1997
By John Makeig, Staff Writer


Exonerated by DNA tests after serving 12 years for a rape he says he did not commit, Kevin Byrd walked out of custody and into the arms of relatives Wednesday.

Byrd, 35, said only, "I feel good."

His brother, Kenneth, 34, and his sister, Phyllis, 40, cried as they embraced him.

"I'm happy, so very happy," Phyllis Byrd said. "It's one of those days we've been waiting for. I've been praying and praying."

Randy Schaffer watches as Kevin Byrd is embraced by brother Kenneth at the Harris County Jail while his sister, Phyllis Byrd, waits for her turn.

Kevin Byrd departed arm-in-arm with his relatives on a walk through downtown Houston, headed for the offices of his lawyer, Randy Schaffer.

His release on a $1,000 personal recognizance bond came 11/2 hours after a brief hearing before state District Judge Doug Shaver, who oversaw the 1985 trial that ended in a jury sentencing Byrd to life in prison for raping a pregnant housewife.

The woman he was convicted of assaulting continues to insist that Byrd raped her, despite the recent analysis of semen samples on her slip that found they did not come from Kevin Byrd.

After the report on the DNA tests was received, Shaver joined Sheriff Tommy Thomas and District Attorney John B. Holmes Jr. in asking Gov. George W. Bush to pardon Byrd.

Prosecutor Roe Wilson asked Wednesday that the judge leave Byrd in Harris County Jail to await the governor's decision. She pointed out that Shaver has no statutory authority to free a man who has been convicted.

Shaver did it anyway, agreeing with Schaffer's argument that state District Judge Joe Kegans, now deceased, had once technically exceeded her authority to free an innocent man.

The petition for a pardon now goes to the state parole board, which will make a recommendation to Bush. After receiving it, the governor may take a week or two to study it before acting.

While Wilson and Schaffer debated granting bail, Kevin Byrd sat silently between them, barely moving.

While in prison, Byrd's sister said, he missed the births of some of his 14 nieces and nephews and the 1992 funeral of his father, not to mention all the family gatherings on Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

Kevin Byrd is the fifth of seven children born to a now-deceased Houston couple. According to his sister, their grandfather was a Blackfoot Indian.

The Byrd family plans a series of parties to celebrate Kevin Byrd's return to freedom, starting with a family gathering Friday evening at Kenneth Byrd's home on Keystone.

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