Tyra Patterson was sentenced to 43 years to life when she was 19 years old, for a murder in which she carried no gun, pulled no trigger, and in which she and her co-defendants insist she played no part. An elementary school drop out, Patterson did not know how to read and write at the time of her arrest.
In 1994, Patterson was accused of taking part in the murder of 15-year-old Michelle Lai. Amidst coerced false confessions and overall mishandling of the case, people —including former jury members, politicians, and the victim’s sister— began demanding her freedom. She was released in 2017 after 23 years in prison.
Behind bars, Tyra wrote a book about her life. This is her story.
I AM TYRA tells the extraordinary story of Tyra Patterson, and simultaneously follows her journey as she tries to restore justice for Alexis Martin - a sex trafficking victim, who is serving a life sentence for allegedly conspiring to kill her pimp when she was 15.
Since 1980, the number of incarcerated women in the United States has increased by more than 750%. The ratio is higher for women of color - In 2017, the imprisonment rate for African American women was twice the rate of imprisonment for white women. African American girls are three-and-a-half times more likely to be incarcerated than white girls.
Both Martin and Patterson are women of color, both were teenagers at the time of their arrests - nearly 20 years apart.
Through Patterson’s writing and her current journey to help Alexis Martin, I AM TYRA aims to shed light on a dysfunctional justice system, one in which social status, class, race, and gender too often affect the outcome of a sentence. It is an intimate look at women’s experiences in America's carceral state.
I AM TYRA is a story of redemption, hope, and resilience. Above all, it is a reminder of the importance of a second chance.