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An appeal for justice for Gary Tyler

By Nicole Colson | December 14, 2007 | Page 12

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL is encouraging anyone who supports justice to call on outgoing Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco to pardon Gary Tyler before she leaves office in January.

In 1975, Tyler, then just 17 years old, was wrongly convicted of the murder of Timothy Weber, a 13-year-old white youth who 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 all too typical of Jim Crow "justice" in the South: He was tried in front of an all-white jury from which Blacks were deliberately excluded; several witnesses later recanted their testimony, claiming police coerced them; and Tyler's court-appointed attorney failed to interview any witnesses or prepare for the trial.

What you can do

Appeals for the pardon of Gary Tyler can be sent to: Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Office of the Governor, P.O. Box 94004, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004, or by e-mail at Gov. Blanco's state Web site.

To read more about the case, see Joe Allen's "Three decades of injustice," published in the International Socialist Review.


In addition, 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.

When he was convicted, Tyler was the youngest person on death row in the U.S. His death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole when the Louisiana death penalty was later ruled unconstitutional.

A federal appeals court has declared Tyler's trial "fundamentally unfair," yet he has never been granted a retrial. In addition, three pardon boards have recommended to two separate governors a commutation of sentence, but no governor has taken action.

According to the Amnesty International appeal, "Gary Tyler has served more than three times as much as the national U.S. average for a person convicted of murder or non-negligent manslaughter. As a life-sentenced prisoner, Gary Tyler cannot be granted release on parole unless his sentence is first commuted to a term of years by the Pardon Board and the Board's recommendation is accepted by the Governor.

"High-ranking staff at Angola have reportedly endorsed his latest application for a pardon on the ground that he has matured into a responsible citizen deserving of release. However, to date, his name has not yet appeared on the parole board's docket for a hearing, and it is feared that, without further pressure, he may miss the chance to be heard before the governor leaves office."

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