Video of the Week:Fundamental Fairness First! fights for the wrongfully incarcerated

May 22, 2009


Free Horace Peterson

Free Horace Peterson


  By Gabe Gutierrez

(05/20/09)–A Flint family is fighting for a man they say has been wrongfully locked up for decades.

Horace Peterson’s relatives rallied in Lansing on Wednesday as part of group called Fundamental Fairness First!  It argues 178 state inmates are in legal limbo.

To the Michigan prison system, he is inmate number 136503.  To Jacqueline Peterson, he is the brother she’s been missing for 36 years.

“I remember him very well,” she said.  “He was my big brother.”

“He may have been living a fast life, but he was not a murderer,” Jacqueline said.

Seven years later, the Michigan Supreme Court reinterpreted the law, ruling prosecutors needed to prove “malice” for felony murder convictions.

But that ruling wasn’t retroactive.

Peterson’s family argues he — and many other inmates — have been locked up too long.

“I just miss him,” said his father, David Peterson.  “And me and his mother, we’re getting up in age. We just hope he gets a chance to get out while we’re alive.”

Some of the families have been fighting the legislature for more than 20 years.

A House bill failed last year.  The group is also organizing an online petition drive.

“He left when I was three years old,” said Peterson’s daughter, Onquette Woodyard.  “Seeing him every day and then just not seeing him at all. That’s just traumatizing for a child.”

The group argues releasing these 178 inmates would save Michigan taxpayers several million dollars a year.

A Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman says the department is merely carrying out the sentence imposed by the courts.


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