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Finding A New Life, After An Abusive Marriage And A Prison Sentence

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In the late 1980s, Mytokia Fair was working as a Baltimore police officer. But at home, her then-husband, Tyree Friend, beat her.

One night, she recalls, something had upset him. "And it got to a point where he was hitting me, I mean repeatedly, and he spat in my face," Fair tells her current husband, Thomas Fair, on a visit to StoryCorps.

Fair says she knew she couldn't get out of the relationship. "I knew he would follow me," she tells Thomas.

The next day, "I looked at him and, you know, I just saw that look," she tells Thomas. "I knew it was going to start all over again. I couldn't take it anymore; I just wanted the pain to stop. And I shot and killed him.

"When the police officers got there, I was frantic trying to tell them — explain to them what had happened," Fair says. "That's when I realized I was going to jail ... when they put handcuffs on me and read me my rights."

At the time, Maryland did not allow battered spouse syndrome as part of a criminal defense. Fair was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Three years later, Gov. William Donald Schaefer commuted her sentence after the state's parole board recommended Fair's release, saying her actions were the result of her husband's "repeated physical and psychological abuse."

"I understood what I did — I broke the law. So in breaking the law there's consequences. So when I came out, I had to come out running. Had to rebuild my mind like a muscle ... to know how worthy that I am. That's why I was able to allow you to come into my life," Fair, now 54, tells Thomas.

"I knew that you'd been hurt," Thomas tells his wife. "I wanted to be a man that you could trust."

"I wasn't worried. I saw that you wouldn't hurt me," Fair says. "My life is far different now. And I'm so excited of what's to come."

Produced for Morning Edition by Liyna Anwar.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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