Across the street from the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, a mobile billboard flashes a message urging Governor Gretchen Whitmer to release Horace Peterson from prison. The Flint man has spent almost five decades behind bars for a crime his family says he did not commit.

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Peterson was charged with first-degree murder in 1973 after a robbery in Flint. 48 years later, his family says he doesn't belong in prison, petitioning for his release. Peterson's grandson, Eric Woodyard, says his sentence is exceptionally harsh because his grandfather had a very limited role in the robbery.

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

Despite being separated by prison bars, both Eric and his mother Onquette Woodyard say they are close to Peterson. His daughter was three when he went to prison.

“I get very emotional when it comes to my father, she tells WLNS. "You know because I know he’s a good person and he doesn’t deserve to be there.”

More than 84,000 people have signed a petition calling for Peterson's release.

The Woodyards are counting on Gov. Whitmer

Onquette Woodyard says she hopes the case will catch the governor's attention.

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

It was seven years after Peterson's conviction when Michigan courts required proof of malice when convicting someone for felony murder. That decision, however, was not retroactive and only applied to cases moving forward.

WLNS reports that Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton has not commented on the case.

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