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Welcome to wrongful conviction, false confessions. I'm Laura Nightrider. And I'm Steve Drazen. In today's episode, we'll take you to Dayton, Ohio, to tell you about Tara Patterson. A 19 year old Tirah falsely confessed to stealing a necklace, but an obscure law turned her false confession to robbery into something far worse. Hey, guys, it's Laura. You know, we create these podcasts to educate as well as to inspire action. And when I checked out a few of our Apple podcast reviews recently, I was so thrilled to learn about what our incredible listeners are doing.


One of you wrote, After listening to wrongful conviction, I've decided to get my associate's degree in paralegal studies. I start school in January at almost 46 years old. Another listener wrote, I have a bachelor's in criminal justice and a master's in forensic psychology. Your podcast has been so inspirational that I've applied to volunteer for organizations that fight wrongful convictions. I can't say it enough. You guys are fueling our shared work to reform the legal system, join our growing community.


And remember, no action is too small. Keep telling your stories in our Apple reviews. We'll keep reading them and fighting for justice right along with you. This episode is sponsored by AIG, a leading global insurance company, and Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, a leading international law firm, the AIG pro bono program provides free legal services and other support to many non-profit organizations and individuals most in need, and recently announced that working to reform the criminal justice system will become a key pillar of the program's mission.


Paul Weiss has long had an unwavering commitment to providing impactful, pro bono legal assistance to the most vulnerable members of our society and in support of the public interest, including extensive work in the criminal justice area. I was sitting in my office one day and the phone rang and on the other end of the call was David Singleton, the director of a group called the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. David was looking for somebody who could assist him in a case that involved a false confession.


It was Tirah Patterson's case. We've told a lot of stories about people who falsely confessed to murders last season, but the crazy thing is this is a case where a false confession to robbery is converted into a false conviction for murder. And it's all because of an obscure, archaic rule called the felony murder doctrine. A felony murder leads to people going down for murders who never killed anyone.


But most people think about people in prison who've been convicted of murder. They think of truly bad people, you know, scary folks. But there are a lot of people in prison for murder who never touched a gun or a murder weapon at all.


The prisons are filled with people convicted of felony murder, people like Tyler Patterson. Today's story starts in Dayton, Ohio. It was a manufacturing town back in the day, but those jobs left in the 80s and 90s and never came back. Now, Dayton's claim to fame is that the guys who invented the airplane used to live there, Wilbur and Orville Wright. In fact, our story starts in a part of town named after the Wright Brothers, a lower income mixed race neighborhood called Wright View.


It was just after midnight on a Tuesday and Wright view September 20th, 1994. Tirah Patterson was awake and bored. Tirah was 19 and smart as hell with a sunny personality.


She was full of promise, but there weren't many open doors in front of her tirhas home. Life was really tough. Her dad was an alcoholic who hit her mom when he'd been drinking. He left when Tirah was just a kid and they got evicted when her mom couldn't pay the bills, Tirah dropped out of school in sixth grade. She was tired of the other kids bullying her about being poor. She got a job at a fast food restaurant and they put her at the register because she was so friendly.


But Tirah hadn't learned enough math to make change. She was humiliated every time someone handed her a twenty and quit the job. By the time Tyra reached her late teens, the family had found an apartment to live in again, but Tirah had lost her way. She smoked a lot of weed and try not to think about how her life could have been different.


It was around 2:00 a.m. on September 20th, when Tirhas Boring Night started getting a little too interesting.


Tyra and her friend Rebecca were hanging out at Tyra's place and they decided to go for a walk outside.


They ran into five other young people from right view. Tara barely knew most of them, but she and Rebecca stuck around anyway. The group was mixed gender and mixed race. Five were black, including Tyra and two were whites, including Rebecca. To keep things clear in our story, we're going to call all of them the right view group. Sometime after 2:00 a.m., a gray Chevrolet rolled into an alley near where the group was hanging out. The Chevy was filled with five teenagers, all white girls from another part of town.


They'd driven to right view to steal stuff from people's garages in the alley. Two of these would be thieves got out of the Chevy to steal a radio.


They were gone about ten minutes before they returned to the car in a hurry. Following them on foot were three members of the Right View Group Lasana, Angie and Joe. And on a leash, Joe had a pit bull. Before the girls in the Chevy can drive away, another car pulls up in front of them, blocking the alleys exit. It's the other four members of the right view group and crammed into a corner of that car wondering what she's gotten herself into is Tyra Patterson, Tyra's friend.


Rebecca gets out of the car and heads for the Chevy, along with the other right view, people not knowing what else to do. Tyra gets out, too, but she's not prepared for what happens next. There's a confrontation. Everyone starts yelling. One of the right view girls, not Tyra, called the girls in the Chevy white bitches to other right view. Girls join in still not Tyra and start telling the girls in the Chevy to check it in.


That means throw your money and jewelry on the ground. The girls on the TV don't immediately comply, and that's when things really escalate. Tyra hangs back but three of the right view. Girls open the car doors and start landing punches. Joe lets his pit bull into the car and orders it to attack. Now it's a melee. Some of the girls in the Chevy do check it in throwing their jewelry onto the ground.


Tyra's not used to this kind of stuff. She doesn't have a record and she has no interest in violence. She tries to calm the situation down, but no one listens. As the punches intensify, Tyra and her friend Rebecca starts slipping away. They want no part of this. But as they leave, Tyra spots a necklace on the ground, costume jewelry, a cheap gold cross. She's never owned that kind of jewelry and it seems valuable to her.


Tyra picks up the necklace, puts it in her pocket and keeps walking away.


When Tyra picked up that necklace, at worst, it was a theft. It may not even have been a crime. Picking up a necklace off the ground is not something that prosecutors are interested in. It's not something that that people go to prison for. And it's certainly not murder.


Right. As Tyra is walking away, she hears words being yelled, yelled maybe to her by one of the girls in the Chevy. Eighteen year old Holly Lane, please make them stop. Holly calls. We don't have anything before Tyra can respond. A gunshot rings out. Lasana Kini, part of the review group, had pulled out a gun and fired into the car. The bullet went straight into the temple of Michelle Holley's 15 year old sister. Michelle died instantly.


Later on, another one of the right view girls, Angie, expressed bewilderment that it all happened so fast we just meant to punk them out, she said. Within minutes, though, funking out turned into murder. The moment the shots rang out, everyone scattered, most members of the right view group fled to a nearby motel, but Tirah ran to her apartment only a few hundred feet away, where she panicked and flushed the necklace down the toilet.


She was afraid it would connect her to a shooting she didn't commit. For her part, Holly Lay got out of the SUV and started banging on doors, pleading desperately for someone, anyone to call an ambulance, help her sister. Eventually, someone did call 911.


It was Tirah.


Police only needed about 12 hours to figure out who had been there when Michelle Lee was shot, the girls from the Chevy gave some pretty good descriptions of both their assailants and the pit bull. Police found the dogs sitting outside its owner's house. And when the owner matched the girl's descriptions of Joe. Police knew they'd found one of the right group. Pretty soon, several people had been rounded up and the police were knocking at his door to before long, Tara Patterson found herself in an interrogation room.


The police were angry the shooting was tragic and they wanted to nail as many people as possible for murder, not just Lassana who pulled the trigger, but the others, too. But how do you get someone who didn't kill anyone to go down for murder? Well, one tool that police and prosecutors have is that felony murder rule we mentioned earlier. This little known law can be the source of enormous injustice in its purest form.


The felony murder rule is felony, plus death equals first degree murder. So if you commit a felony and during the course of that felony, someone dies, you are convicted of first degree murder, even though you never intended to kill somebody, even though you couldn't have foreseen that somebody would have died. It is the intent to commit that felony that substitutes for the intent to kill. They didn't coerce Tyra into confessing to murder because they knew before the interrogation who the murderer was.


It was Leshawn, a keaney. All they needed to do was get Tirah to say that she grabbed a necklace by force from one of the girls in the car. That's a robbery. They could get her for the same murder that Lasana Kini committed.


So getting Tyra to say she snatched the necklace instead of picking it up is what this interrogation is all about. Now, like all interrogations that aren't fully recorded, there are two stories about what happened in the room. There is the official story told in police reports, and then there's the story told by the defendant. They almost always diverge into his case. The police story goes like this. Tirah admitted to being there, but she denied being involved in the robbery, assault or shooting.


But as she was being booked, Tirah spontaneously announced that she wanted to tell the truth and admitted reaching into the car and grabbing the necklace off one of the girls.


That's when police captured her confession on videotape. No coercion, no drama.


But according to Tirah and her lawyer, she confessed after a very different sequence of events. Here's David Singleton, that lawyer who called Steve about this case. David has represented Tirah for the past eight years.


Tyrer recalls very clearly the detective screaming at her, saying she's a murderer, that she's going to be locked up for the rest of her life, cursing at her, telling her she's an effing liar because Tyrer was saying, I didn't rob anybody. I didn't shoot anybody.


Eventually, the detective takes Tirah out of the interrogation room and walks her past where Tirah could see Rebecca sitting in a police car about to go home and tirhas like, well, you know, Rebecca's going home. Why am I not going home? The detective said, well, she gave us a videotaped statement and Tiger said, well, I'll give you a videotaped statement. The detective said, well, you don't have anything to tell us. And Tyra said, well, I picked up a necklace from the ground and the sector smiled and took her back in to try and charge her.


The police tell Tirah she just needs to change one thing in her story about the necklace, she didn't pick it up off the ground. Instead, she robbed it from the girls after all, they say. Wouldn't it be better to go down for a robbery than for murder? Getting caught up in a murder is what Tirhas been terrified of all along. So this is what breaks her. She falsely admits to snatching the necklace off one of the girls in the SUV.


Now she's confessed to robbery and the cops have their felony. It's only at this point that the video camera gets turned on.


Describe the necklace. Is it a go right, they go I on a wild grab and the little girl in the back seat. You think that that the driver but the person behind the driver? OK.


Well, what struck me about Tyra's appearance in that video is she did look tired. She also looks scared. At one point you hear somebody screaming in the room and she's just terrified. And another point I recall very vividly, she's looking to the detective for an answer. I mean, she was trying to satisfy what he wanted because she thought that was her ticket to go back home and continue on with her life. And the minute that she finished the video and the camera was turned off, she said, do I get to go home now?


And he said, no, I'm booking you for murder. That's when the nightmare truly began.


How is Tyra to know that one little change in her story was enough to charge her not just with robbery, but with felony murder? That one little change made Tyra as liable for Michelle death as the murderer herself. You know, there's a huge irony in this case, they needed Tirah to confess to a robbery, not a theft. And the way they did it was they told her it's better to go down for a robbery than it is for a murder.


And she accepted that explanation. She believed that premise. Everybody believes that, of course, because they don't understand the felony murder rule. We've seen police officers lie before. But this is a particularly dangerous lie because it sets somebody up for murder charges.


There's actually a second irony in this case, too, because here you have the felony murder rule being applied to Tyrer Patterson. She didn't have a weapon with her that night. She didn't know the people who did come to that scene with weapons. She tried to intervene and stop the fight. She tried to de-escalate as things were getting more serious and more violent. And when she couldn't stop the fight, she walked away. After the gunshot, she called 911.


One tirhas is a hero here. She's not a murderer.


She's the one, though, who ends up going down. Tyra Patterson's only crime, if it even was a crime, was picking up a necklace from the ground, but suddenly, somehow she was on trial for murder and facing life in prison. And like too many murder trials, tirhas with a shit show. So Tyrer was represented by attorneys in the local public defender office. The problem was that they were overwhelmed and didn't have the resources to defend Tirah appropriately, the primary evidence against Tirah with her confession.


But her attorneys never argued that it was false or coerced. In fact, no one, not the judge or the jury, ever heard Tirhas account of her interrogation. Her attorneys actually advised her not to testify in her own defense, not to tell her side of the story.


And why not?


They said that she was too unsophisticated and talk too much like she was from the ghetto, that she'd be eaten alive by the prosecutors. And I think that Tirah got written off in that way.


The jury did hear, though, from Holly Lay, who testified that she'd seen Tirah reaching into the car. A few other girls from the Chevy testified the same way their stories went unchallenged by Tirhas lawyers, even though they could have called Rebecca to testify that Tirah never snatched the necklace off anyone. The lawyers didn't even play Tirhas 911 one call which would have showed that she was trying to help.


We were able to find out by talking to the jurors years later that that nine one one call would have made a difference had they heard it. When I played it for them, they were like we never would have convicted her had we known that she had called nine one one.


But the defense gave the jurors nothing to work with. Nothing. And that's how Tara Patterson, the woman who never touched a gun or robbed anyone, was convicted of one count of aggravated murder and four counts of aggravated robbery. When the jury announced its verdict, she stood up and shouted in disbelief. But I didn't do it. It didn't matter.


She was sentenced to 43 years to life. That's 13 more years than Lassana, who actually pulled the trigger. And in December 1995, Tirah Patterson became Ohio's Department of Corrections inmate number three seven seven three seven. Fast forward to 2011, Tyra Patterson had been in prison for just over 16 years, not even halfway through her sentence when she got her first break. Ohio Governor Ted Strickland learned about her case. He thought it was unfair that her sentence was more severe than the shooter's.


So he issued what's called a commutation.


Tirah tried to stop this from happening. She walked away before the shots were fired. All she did was pick up a necklace off of the ground. LaShawn McKinney brought the gun to this event and she pulled the trigger that led to Michelle Lee's death. It is grossly unfair for Shauna to be sentenced to 30 years and four Tirah to be sentenced to 43 years. And that's why the governor commuted Tirah sentence to 16 years to life, which made her immediately eligible for parole.


But Tirhas hopes of freedom were dashed. A few months later, the Ohio Parole Board denied her request for parole, and they said she had to wait up to seven years before asking again.


They said her crime was too severe. That's when David Singleton got involved.


He'd heard about her case from a friend and he decided to go meet Tirah Patterson.


When David met Tirah in prison, she was different from that 19 year old girl whose future looked like a broken promise behind bars.


Tirah had redeemed her own promise. She'd gained skills in prison, working as a porter, a food service worker, a maintenance person. She'd gone from an illiterate sixth grade dropout to someone who earned her GED. She'd participated in more than 200 self-improvement programs. And most importantly, she was becoming an incredible advocate for herself and for justice when she told David she was innocent. He believed her and he set out to prove it. Enlisting Steve drizzles help in the process.


There's no DNA miracle for people like Tyra and for most of the people who are locked up in prison. I mean, DNA is only presenting in maybe 10 percent of all cases.


Well, that's the thing. Even if the shooter had left DNA on the gun, everybody already knew that Lassana Kini was the one who pulled the trigger. This is not a case where DNA testing is going to exonerate Tyler Patterson.


What she needed here was a reinvestigation and advocacy.


As David and Steve dove into the case against Tirah, they found some major cracks. First, David discovered that the victim's sister, Holly Lay, had testified at the trial of another one of the right view girls a year before Tirhas trial. Back then, Holly had testified the Tirah wasn't the one who reached into the car and snatched the necklace. It had actually been someone else.


Second, David uncovered the very first statements the girls in the Chevy gave to police right after Michelle was shot and when he and Steve reviewed those early statements.


Well, it was revealing.


He remembers some of these were given within an hour or two of the crime. So the memories were fresh for the witnesses. And Tirah was like a ghost. The two people who were mentioned far less than everybody else in all of these accounts were Tirah and BECC. And so that squared with Tirhas story.


Third, David talked to some of the other write few girls, the ones who are more involved in what went down that night. Three of them signed affidavits supporting Tirhas innocence, including Lassana Kini. Lasana confirmed that far from participating, Tirah had actually tried to stop the confrontation from escalating. Before long, Tirhas case was attracting attention among some pretty influential people. Ohio State Senator Peggy Lainer visited Tirah in prison, and she was so compelled by Tyra's story that she got four other state senators to back Tirhas efforts for release.


Celebrities and advocates also began getting involved, everyone from actor Elfriede Woodard to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. They began tweeting and posting in support of Tirah using the hashtag IMT Patterson.


This entire Paterson campaign, the hashtag, what it meant was they were in solidarity with her. People were saying, we're there for you. We see you, we hear you. And that was a powerful message.


You know, I think the first time I heard the name Tyra Patterson was when I opened up my Twitter feed one day. And there I see a video of Steve giving a speech and holding a poster that says in big black letters, I am Tyra Patterson.


That was take five of that video because the first take went along what I thought was really well and I picked up the side. I am holding it upside down.


Great. Great. The point of the campaign was to. Demonstrate that anybody could falsely confess if pressured by the police, and I am Tirah Patterson to me was making that message loud and clear.


I could have been higher, Patterson or my child could have been Tirah Patterson.


That's how Tyrer became, in my view, her best advocate. It was exposing people to her so that they could see her as the living, breathing daughter, sister and person who was going to shine in the community if we could get her free one person.


This message reached with the victim's sister, 2016, is when Holly Lay got in touch with me and her husband said Holly wants to meet you at Michelle's grave on Michelle's birthday. So I showed up. I didn't think they were going to come. I was like, this cannot not be happening, Holly said.


Tyrer didn't do this. And in fact, that night Tyber walked by as we were talking to the police and the police officer looked and said, is that one of the ones who was involved? And we all said no. On the night of the crime, Holly had seen one of the other girls snatched the necklace, not Tyra. But when she heard about Tirhas confession, Holly figured she must have been mistaken. After all, who had confessed to a crime they didn't commit.


Years later, Holly learned about false confessions and she realized Tyra must have given one. Holly's memory had been right all along. Tirah was innocent, and Holly agreed to support Tirhas release. In 2017, Tara Patterson was granted parole after 21 years behind bars on Christmas morning. She walked out of prison, bent down and kissed the winter snow.


It wasn't exoneration, but at last she was free to quote Shawshank Redemption tiara Patterson got busy living.


She's my colleague now at the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. She's soaring in her job as our community relations expert.


She speaks multiple times a week to different community groups, mentoring young people not just in our community, but in places across the country. Tyra basically runs Cincinnati. Everybody knows her. She is the brains behind this social justice mural that is going up in downtown Cincinnati featuring women who have spent a long time in prison and have come home and are doing well. And her face is one of the ones up there. It's just sad that her life was interrupted for 23 years.


But now she's living and it's a beautiful thing to see. Hello, Tyra. Hey, Steve, how are you? Hey, Tyra, it's Laura.


Hey, Laura, how great. Are you at home?


I am. So Tyra was living in an apartment for a while, and now she's a homeowner? Yes.


What was it like to have your own place after being in prison so long? Oh, my God. The privacy. No yelling, no screaming, no arguing. It was beautiful. I slept like a baby. I'm so alive. And if I were you, first thing I would have done is like stood in the shower for three hours. There's nothing like a long shower. No, Laura, I didn't even do that. I stayed in a bathtub for three hours and then we didn't get to take a bath.


So all I ever wanted to do was come home and take a bubble bath. I'm going to go take a bubble bath.


In your honor, I think I have to tell them I love you. Tyra hasn't given up on exoneration. She and her legal team are still fighting to clear her name. If you want to follow Tirhas case and send her a message of support, look her up on Instagram at Tirah, that Imani Dot 777.


She inspires Steve and me every day.


That's the story of Tara Patterson, join us next week when we'll tell you about Ronald Kitchin, who was tortured by Chicago police into falsely confessing to murder. And it turns out he was far from the only one. We'll talk about how Ronald got his freedom and how the city's police torture scandal got exposed.


Wrongful conviction, False Confessions is a production of Lava for Good Podcast's in association with Signal Company No. One special thanks to our executive producers Jason Pflum and Kevin Autists. Our production team is headed by senior producer and pope, along with producers Josh Hammer and Jess Shane. Our show is mixed by Jeanie Montalvo. John Colbert is our intrepid intern. Our music was composed by DJ Ralph. You can follow me on Instagram or Twitter at Laurer Nightrider and you can follow me on Twitter at Drizzt.


For more information on the show, visit wrongful conviction podcast dotcom. Be sure to follow the show on Instagram at wrongful conviction on Facebook, at Wrongful Conviction Podcast and on Twitter at wrong conviction. For NPR ex.