Tyra Patterson didn’t carry the gun, she didn’t pull the trigger, and her co-defendants insisted she played no part in the 1994 shooting death of 15-year old Michelle Lai in Dayton, Ohio. But police coerced a false confession out of the teenager, who did not know how to read or write at the time of her arrest. In 1995, she was convicted of murder and robbery and sentenced to 43 years-to-life. She was 19.
In 2012, Ohio prosecutors knew 15-year-old Alexis Martin wasn't in the room when shots were fired, maiming one man and killing another, her sex trafficker. They still charged her with murder and demanded that she be tried as an adult. She ultimately received a life sentence. Both Tyra and Alexis were teenagers at the time of their arrests—nearly 20 years apart. When Tyra is finally paroled in 2017 after spending 23 years in prison, coming home is bittersweet. Is she really "free"? How can she help Alexis?
Shot over a period of almost 8 years and through an intimate lens of one woman’s fight for freedom and exoneration, I Am Tyra, explores the complex and often invisible struggles for wrongfully convicted women and their return to society—specifically young Black women— experiencing generational cycles of poverty, family instability, educational gaps, abuse and trauma, girls who have been disproportionately harmed by the justice system.
I Am Tyra offers a much-needed female perspective into America’s broken justice system as we explore the deep emotional journey of reintegration, the necessity of peer-to-peer relationships, and psychological consequences of being institutionalized for decades.