Wrongly Convicted Man Graduates From College After 5 Years On Death Row

Denton, TX — Ryan Matthews from Texas was just 17-years old when he was accused of a crime he didn’t com­mit. He lat­er spent 5 years on death row, but was lat­er exon­er­at­ed and released. Now at 39-years old, he is cel­e­brat­ing being a col­lege grad­u­ate.

In April 1997, Matthews was believed to be the cul­prit in fatal­ly shoot­ing a 43-year old busi­ness­man, who is white.

Throughout the tri­al, he main­tained his inno­cence and there was real­ly no evi­dence link­ing him to the crime. But he was still found guilty by 11 white jurors and 1 black juror. He was sen­tenced to death at the age of 19.

Activists and his fam­i­ly fought for his free­dom. DNA evi­dence even­tu­al­ly proved his inno­cence and the real killer final­ly con­fessed. After 5 years on death row, he was exon­er­at­ed and released in 2004.

All these years ago when I first came home, a reporter asked me what I want­ed to do, and I told them I want­ed to go to school,” Matthews told WFAA.

And he did just that. He enrolled at TWU in Denton, Texas where he has recent­ly grad­u­at­ed with a bachelor’s degree in applied arts and sci­ence.

Inspired by his sto­ry, his sis­ter and 71-year old moth­er fol­lowed suit and also con­tin­ued study­ing.

So I decid­ed to go back and pur­sue my Ph.D. because hope­ful­ly, I’ll be able to do some leg­isla­tive work and get some of that wrong­ful con­vic­tion and rein­te­gra­tion leg­is­la­tion changed,” said Monique Coleman, Matthews’ sis­ter.

Pauline Matthews, their moth­er, is proud of what they’ve accom­plished.

Moreover, Ryan plans to pur­sue grad­u­ate school to focus on busi­ness. But he admit­ted he still feels bit­ter about his past some­times.

I am because of what hap­pened, but I can’t because it would stop me from mov­ing for­ward… I’m try­ing to be the best I can be,” he said.