Welcome to Justice4Tyra.com. I thank my legal team for posting this on my behalf. And I thank YOU for visiting this website.
The first thing that I want to say is that I am still deeply saddened by the murder of Michelle Lai. Her death was tragic and senseless. As I look forward to being released some day so that I can pursue my dreams, I realize that Michelle never got to pursue hers. She was only fifteen when she was killed. So, I ask that you please keep Michelle and the other victims in your thoughts and prayers. Michelle’s murder, not my wrongful imprisonment, is the greatest tragedy of this case.
What happened on September 20, 1994 has caused so much pain to so many that I’m reluctant to open up old wounds by reliving that night. But in order for me to go home, I need to tell my story. I need to tell the truth about what happened the night that Michelle was killed. This website tries to do that.
I’ve spent nineteen years, nearly half of my life, in prison for crimes I did not commit. At my trial the prosecutor made it seem like I knew my co-defendants well and actively participated with them in robbing the victims. But the truth is that I did not know three of my co-defendants at all before the night of the incident and did not know the fourth very well. More importantly, I did not rob or help rob the victims. I did not shoot or help kill Michelle. In fact, I tried to stop the robbery that led to her death. And after leaving the scene with my friend Becca, I called 911 as soon as I heard Holly Lai screaming that her sister Michelle had been shot.
But I did make poor choices the night Michelle was killed. The biggest mistake I made that night – which is really the biggest mistake of my life – was picking up a necklace from the ground as Becca and I started heading back to my apartment after I was unable to stop the robbery. I knew the necklace did not belong to me and had come from one of the victims, and I knew it was wrong for me to take it. When I finally told the police that I had taken a necklace from the ground, the detective who was questioning me pressured me into saying that I had ripped the necklace from one of the victims. He told me that it was better to admit to a robbery than to go down for murder. So I falsely admitted to grabbing the necklace from a victim, which meant I was admitting to robbery. And because Michelle was killed during the robbery, the prosecution used my confession to convict me of murder.
Some people don’t understand how I could’ve made a false confession. The truth is I was young and scared and wanted to go home after hours of police questioning. I told the detective what I believed he wanted to hear. I hoped he would release me. Sadly, I’ve learned that I’m not the only who has made a false confession and that it happens too often.
I wish I could have taken a polygraph when the police arrested me so that I could’ve shown them I was telling the truth. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that chance. But finally last year I got the opportunity to take a polygraph and I passed. And earlier this year each of my co-defendants and my friend Becca took polygraphs and were found to be telling the truth when they said that I did not rob anyone and that I tried to stop the robbery before Michelle was killed. That’s six polygraphs saying that I am innocent of the crimes the jury convicted me of committing.
I’m not bitter or angry about being locked up all these years. Sometimes bad things can be a blessing in disguise. I came to prison a 6th grade drop-out. Through hard work, I earned my GED and also my boilers engineer license. I’ve taken pretty much every class and program that’s been made available to me. I also enjoy helping other inmates with their writing. And I love to read, something I never did as a child. I most definitely can say that I’m a better person than I was 19 years ago.
Let me close by thanking each of you for your support. To my family, my friends, my legal team and my supporters, please know that I love each of you and hope that I will get the chance to thank you in person one day. Without people like you, who take the time to read my story, the road to freedom would be a lot tougher. The time you are taking to read this means the world to me. Thank you.
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