Free Gary Tyler

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Gary TylerFree at last?

He always had a feeling it would always come down to just one person. One governor to agree to sign the release. One judge to admit his mistake. One man to cleanse his soul and confess his sin.

On Monday, June 25th 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States of America held that "The Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders." He was a juvenile when he was sentenced for a homicide. The state mandated that he had to be sentenced to death or to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. This ruling applies to him. Five Supreme Justices concurred; four dissented. One vote separated the ayes from the nays. One person decided that potentially he can finally be free. If one person who said aye had said nay, this too would have been a dead end. But they didn't. Five to four. The ayes have it.

His juvenile years are long gone, as is much of his adult life. His once defiant dreadlocks thinned and turned to grey many years ago and have since been shaved off. But devotion to maintaining a disciplined regime to keep body and soul healthy has kept the spirit alive. His eyes still hold that flame of defiance.

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Supreme Court strikes down mandatory life terms for juveniles

what will this decision mean for Gary?

from the LA Times ... It is cruel and unusual punishment to send a young murderer to die in prison if a judge has not weighed whether his youth and the nature of his crime merited a shorter prison term, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The 5-4 decision struck down laws in 28 states that mandated life terms for juvenile murderers with no hope for parole.

The justices ruled in the cases of two 14-year-old boys, one from Alabama and one from Arkansas, who were given life terms for their roles in homicides. But the decision applies to all those under 18 who are sentenced under mandatory laws.

The ruling could lead to new sentencing or parole hearings for more than 2,000 prisoners around the country who committed homicides when they were young and were given mandatory life terms. The justices set a new constitutional rule that prisoners could cite in their appeals.

A Passion Play in Prison: Enacting Forgivness & Redemption

It is painfully hot and dry in the rodeo arena at Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola, the largest maximum-security prison in America. Under a blazing sun American flags hang limply around the sand-covered enclosure, where 70 prisoners are acting out a unique version of "The Life of Jesus Christ". By the time the three ingeniously constructed crosses are raised on a small hill of dirt, the physical torture of a slow death by crucifixion is palpable. 

Gary Tyler, the longtime president of the Angola Prison Drama Club and the play's director, is one of them. In a trial that a federal appeals court found to be "fundamentally unfair", he was convicted of murder and originally sentenced to death. Since his arrival at Angola in 1975 there have been repeated calls for his release.

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National Conference of Black Lawyers calls for Gary's release

Gary Tyler was born in July 1958. Originally sentenced to death, he now is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole to comply with the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling finding Louisiana’s death penalty unconstitutional. Gary was convicted in January 1977, at the age of 17, for first degree murder in the death of a 13 year old white boy that occurred when Gary was 16 years old. The murder of the 13 year old took place in a racially charged atmosphere, exacerbated by the Ku Klux Klan, when Louisiana was attempting to desegregate the schools as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. There are significant problems with Mr. Tyler’s conviction. Amnesty International, citing disturbing racial and political factors that occurred during the case, has deemed Gary Tyler a political prisoner.

Join the National Conference of Black Lawyers in honoring the spirit of Mandela on the occasion of his 93rd birthday in calling for the end to the woman-hunt for Assata Shakur and release of Gary Tyler.

Urgent Action for Gary Tyler urged by Amnesty International

"Earlier this year, a petition was filed with the Louisiana Pardon Board requesting that Gary Tyler’s life sentence be commuted to a defined number of years so that the outgoing state governor can authorize his release before she leaves office in January 2008. This may be Gary Tyler’s last chance for justice through executive clemency.

Despite his youth at the time of trial, and his exemplary record in prison, Gary Tyler has served more than three times as much as the national US 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".
excerpt from AI action alert . . . 11.16.2007

download PDF of AI statement
link to AI action alert

previous Amnesty International Action Alert!

Notable Sports Figures Call on Gov. Blanco to Free Gary

The Nation Magazine has just published a statement signed by 19 notable sports figures calling for Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to pardon Gary Tyler. The statement, signed by Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Lee Evans, Jim Bouton, Bill "Spaceman" Lee and Dennis Brutus among others, can be read here.

The statement accompanies an article about Gary writted by Dave Zirin which can be read here.

The New York Daily News has covered this development as well. The article written by John Dellapina can be read half-way down this page.

Hear Gary in his own words, on Democracy Now!

Democracy Now! devoted almost an entire hour to Gary Tyler on Thursday, March 1. Amy Goodman interviewed Bob Herbert of the New York Times, along with Gary's mother Juanita and his sister Bobbie McCray. Read, watch or listen here. The audio is also available as a podcast from iTunes.

Bob Herbert on Gary Tyler

The columns that Bob Herbert of the New York Times wrote about Gary's case can be found here.

Jailed For A Crime He Never Committed

GARY TYLER, at one time the youngest person on death row, turned forty-eight years old this July. He has spent thirty-two of those years in jail for a crime he did not commit. The case of Gary Tyler is one of the great miscarriages of justice in the modern history of the United States, in a country where the miscarriage of justice is part of the daily routine of government business. “This case is just permeated with racism all the way through it,” declared Mary Howell, Gary’s longtime attorney, “from the initial event all the way up to the pardon process.” Yet, far too few people are aware of Gary Tyler’s case, which in the mid-1970s mobilized thousands across the country for his freedom and led Amnesty International to declare him a political prisoner. Over the last twenty years, hundreds of death row inmates and scores of others have been exonerated for the crimes they were falsely convicted of by racist and corrupt prosecutors. It’s long past time that Gary Tyler should have gone free.

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