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Woman who spent 23 years in prison for a crime she says she didn't commit received an honorary bachelor's degree

November 21, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

When Tyra Patterson was 19 years old, she was imprisoned for a crime she says she didn't commit. For 23 years, she spent her life locked in a prison cell.

(CNN)When Tyra Patterson was 19 years old, she was imprisoned for a crime she says she didn't commit.

Patterson's convictions for murder and robbery have not been overturned, but while she's been working to clear her name, she has been making a difference in the lives of others.

On the night of the robbery, Patterson and her friend had a chance encounter with a group of five people who were later involved in the robbery, Singleton told CNN.

Unable to help and afraid of getting involved, Patterson and her friend left the scene, Singleton said.

As they walked away, they noticed a necklace on the ground and Patterson picked it up, Singleton said.

Nearly two hours later, after pleading her innocence to the detective interrogating her, Patterson confessed to robbery for being in possession of the necklace; Singleton said the confession was coerced.

Patterson was released from prison in 2017 shortly after Holly Lai Holbrook, the victim's sister, wrote to then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich that she no longer believed that Patterson participated in the robbery that led to her sister's murder.

In Holbrook's letter to Gov. Kasich, she said she remembers asking Patterson for help on the night of the shooting and had told officers who arrived at the scene that Patterson was not involved in the robbery, according to the letter obtained by The Guardian.

"The second I was released, I kissed the ground," Patterson said.

Patterson was released early because the board believed she "served a sufficient portion of her sentence" and had "significant support in the community to facilitate her entry," according to the parole board decision sheet, obtained by CNN.

One year after Patterson's release, her application for clemency to the Ohio Parole Board was rejected and "presumed as no longer necessary," Singleton said, since she was released early on parole

Patterson's friend who was with her that night was not called to the stand, according to the clemency application. ​ A recording of the 911 call Patterson made when she heard the gunshot was never made available to members of the jury, six of whom gave affidavits saying they may not have convicted Patterson if they had listened to the recording, the application said.

Patterson and others convicted in the case were given polygraph tests, in which they all said Patterson was not involved in the robbery and was not there when Lai was shot, according to the application.

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