- Ryan Matthews was released after being wrongfully convicted and initially sent to death row
- Matthews was wrongly accused of killing a man when he was 17 years old
- After five years on death row, Matthews was exonerated and set free
- Matthews has since then graduated with a degree after his release
At 17 years old, Ryan Matthews was wrongly accused of killing a man which led to a death sentence placed on him two years later.
In April 1997, a man in a ski mask shot and killed a 43-year-old owner of Comeaux's Market in Bridge City, Louisiana, right across the river from New Orleans.
Investigators thought Matthews, a black teenager, killed the white business owner, and he was later found guilty by one black juror and 11 white jurors, WFAA in Dallas reported.
Activists rallied and his family fought. DNA evidence eventually proved their case, and the real killer confessed.
After five years on death row, Matthews was exonerated, set free, and moved to Texas.
"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," he said.
And he followed through on that promise to himself and graduated from Texas Woman's University in Denton with a bachelor's degree in applied arts and sciences at 39.
Moved by Matthews' story, his sister is set to pursue a PhD and his 71-year-old mother has also enrolled in university.
His mother, Pauline, said she's "proud, proud, proud".
Matthews said he could easily feel bitter about his experience, though his feelings are still complicated.
"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.
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