Man Once Sentenced To Death Row Works To Abolish Capital Punishment In California

Man Once Sentenced To Death Row Works To Abolish Capital Punishment In California

KPBS
By Megan Burke, Maureen Cavanaugh
Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Do you support the death penalty? It’s one of the most serious questions to confront California voters this November and one of the most divisive.

A Field Poll published in January shows 47 percent of California voters would choose to end the death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole. That’s what Proposition 62 on the November ballot would do.

The same poll found 48 percent want to keep California’s death penalty and would support a new system to speed up the death penalty process. That’s what Proposition 66 would do.

KPBS is partnering with KPCC to host California Counts Town Hall: The Pros And Cons Of Repealing The Death Penalty, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the University of San Diego’s Peace and Justice Theater. If you can’t come to the event, tune in to Midday Edition on Thursday to hear a recording of the town hall.

One man who is now speaking out in support of Proposition 62 served time on death row for a murder he did not commit.

In 1974, at the age of 16, Gary Tyler was convicted in Louisiana of the murder of a white high school student and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court overturned the state’s death penalty in 1976 but Tyler, who is African American, was left with a life sentence for a murder he has steadfastly maintained he did not commit.

Despite recommendations from parole boards and finally a declaration that his life sentence was unconstitutional, Tyler was not released from Angola prison until April, having spent almost 42 years in prison, and only after he agreed to enter a guilty plea to manslaughter.

Tyler said family, friends and supporters across the country helped him survive the time he spent in prison.

“It’s always hard for anyone having to go through an ordeal where no matter what you do to try to prove to people that you are innocent, that the system is no longer functioning,” Tyler said. “That’s a bitter pill to swallow. But if you are determined to survive, you’re able to sustain under horrendous conditions. Because you know one thing, you stand on truth and you just make the best out of a bad situation.”

Tyler, who now lives in California, spoke to Midday Edition about why he supports Proposition 62.

Listen to the interview.

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