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Athletes speak out for a victim of injustice

April 6, 2007 | Page 4

A GROUP of athletes and writers calling themselves Jocks 4 Justice is rallying behind the case of a victim of the racist Louisiana justice system.

An online column by sportswriter and Nation contributor Dave Zirin introduced a letter asking Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco to pardon and free Gary Tyler--who has spent more than three decades behind bars in the infamous Angola prison for a crime he did not commit.

In 1975, Tyler, an African American teenager, was wrongly convicted of the murder of Timothy Weber, a 13-year-old white youth. Weber was killed in 1974 during an attack by a racist white mob on a school bus filled with African American high school students in Destrehan, La.

Tyler's trial was typical of "Jim Crow" justice in the South: In addition to being tried in front of an all-white jury, several witnesses later recanted, claiming police coerced their testimony.

The gun supposedly used in the killing--a .45 automatic later found to have been stolen from a firing range used by police--had no fingerprints on it. The bullet that supposedly came from the gun was never tested to see if it had passed through a human body.

What you can do

Read Dave Zirin's article "Gary Tyler's Quest for Justice" introducing the Jocks 4 Justice letter to Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

To contact Gov. Blanco and urge that Gary Tyler be pardoned, call 225-342-0991 or write: Office of the Governor, Attn: Constituent Services, P.O. Box 94004, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004.


Just 17 years old when he was convicted, Gary was the youngest person on death row in the U.S. His death sentence was commuted to life in prison when the Louisiana death penalty was later ruled unconstitutional.

Although at the time his case attracted the support of prominent activists, including civil rights leader Rosa Parks, Tyler has remained incarcerated to this day, with all bids for parole rejected.

Recently, public awareness of Gary's case has been renewed, first with an article in the International Socialist Review last year, and then a series of stories earlier this year by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. In February, Amnesty International renewed its call for Tyler's release, saying that his original trial was "infected with racial prejudice."

Here, we print the Jocks 4 Justice letter calling for Gary Tyler to be released from unjust imprisonment.

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To: Gov. Kathleen Blanco
We, the undersigned members of the sports community, call upon you, in the name of justice and racial reconciliation, to pardon Gary Tyler and free him from Angola prison.

Gary is an innocent man who has spent 32 of his 48 years on earth behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Gary's life has been destroyed because of racial hysteria and that peculiar brand of police work known internationally as "Southern Justice."

As you are undoubtedly aware, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has spent the last month exposing the terrifying truth behind Gary's conviction. In 1975, Gary Tyler, an African American teenager, was convicted by an all-white jury for the murder of Timothy Weber, a 13-year-old white youth. Weber was shot and killed during a busing riot where 200 whites attacked Gary's school bus.

Weber's death quite understandably sent shock waves across the state. The police needed a killer. They chose Gary, and his nightmare officially began.

Gary's mother detailed to Herbert the sounds of listening to deputies at the police station savagely whipping her son, while they blocked her from entering the room. "They beat Gary so bad," she said. "My poor child. I couldn't do nothing." Every witness who identified Gary as the shooter has since recanted and alleged police intimidation.

The gun supposedly used on that day has disappeared. In the mid-1970s, Gary's case mobilized thousands across the country for his freedom and led Amnesty International to declare him a "political prisoner."

Denied a fair trial 32 years ago, imprisoned for life for a crime he did not commit--we call upon you to free Gary Tyler now.

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, boxer and author of The 16th Round
Tommie Smith, 1968 Olympic gold medalist
John Carlos, 1968 Olympic bronze medalist
Lee Evans, Olympic gold medalist
Etan Thomas, Washington Wizards center and author of More Than an Athlete
Jim Bouton, former New York Yankee pitcher and author of Ball Four
Bill "Spaceman" Lee, former Boston Red Sox pitcher and author of The Wrong Stuff
Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, former light heavyweight boxing champion and head of Joint Action for Boxers (JAB)
David Meggyesy, former NFL linebacker and retired Western Regional Director, NFL Players Association (NFLPA)
Jeff "Snowman" Monson, ultimate fighting championship fighter
Toni Smith, former member of Manhattanville College women's basketball team
Dr. Phil Shinnick, member of the 1964 US Olympic team
Bobbito Garcia, co-editor of Bounce magazine and New York City DJ
Dennis Brutus, former director of the South African Non Racialist Olympic Committee and professor emeritus of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh
Doug Harris, executive director, Athletes United for Peace
Lester Rodney, sports editor, The Daily Worker, 1936-58
Rus Bradburd, former assistant basketball coach at the University of Texas-El Paso and author of Paddy on the Hardwood: Journey Through Irish Hoops
Julio Pabón, president and CEO of Latino Sports Ventures
William Gerena-Rochet, editor of
Dave Zirin, Nation columnist and author of What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States

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