Family wants man released from prison after almost 50 years

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Lansing, Mich. (WLNS) — A Michigan man has been behind bars for 48 years and his family is asking Governor Gretchen Whitmer to let him go.

His name is Horace Peterson from Flint. Since he was incarcerated he’s missed several important milestones in his family’s life, but they continue to fight for his innocence.

“We’re doing anything and everything to bring him home. We feel like it’s been more than enough time served,” said Eric Woodyard, Peterson’s grandson. “He has a harsh penalty for what he did especially because he didn’t know a robbery was going to occur, he wasn’t the guy that did the killing.”

Today they launched a mobile billboard in front of the Capitol with a message for Whitmer.

Horace Peterson was charged with first-degree murder in 1973 after a robbery in Flint that left a store clerk dead. Peterson was there but he did not do it.

“He didn’t pull the trigger and he didn’t know that a robbery was going to occur. So it’s kind of like the wrong place at the wrong time type of thing,” said Eric.

Peterson’s daughter was 3 years-old when he was sentenced. She’s now 51.

“I get very emotional when it comes to my father. You know because I know he’s a good person and he doesn’t deserve to be there,” said Onquette Woodyard, daughter of Peterson.

Despite prison bars separating them, Onquette says Peterson was still a good father and they have a close bond. Eric, who is also close with his grandfather says he looks up to him.

“I feel like a lot of things I’ve been able to accomplish and do is because I’m a direct reflection of him. You know he’s one of my biggest inspirations,” he said.

Orquette wants Gov. Whitmer to take action.

“The reason why I voted for her was because she was all about prison reform. My message to her would be stand on your word,” said Onquette.

Michigan courts did not have to prove malice or intent for felony murders until 7 years after Peterson was convicted, it did not apply to those already behind bars.
“Because Michigan Supreme Court specifically said prospective, not retroactive that people who had suffered, sustained a felony murder conviction before that case was decided in 1980 they’re kind of stuck with it,” said Dustyn Coontz, lawyer and founder of Coontz Law.

Although he’s behind bars Peterson is confident in the work his family is doing. Eric says he does not want him to miss anymore important moments.

“It’s keeping hope alive for him, and he’s holding his head up high. He’s been strong, he’s been a soldier the whole time. He just knows he has family supporting him,” said Eric. “He’s already missed out on a couple generations, he has great-grandchildren out here and we don’t want him to miss out on that.”

Eric says this billboard message to Whitmer is just another step in continuing the fight.

“As long as I’m living and breathing. I’m going to keep speaking up for him and fighting for him,” he said.

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