“Gary Tyler, My Neighbor” wins grand prize

Budding Filmmakers at The International School of Los Angeles Win Grand Prize in Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Video Contest

From more than 800 submissions, an entry from Ming-Wei Fasquelle ‘20 and Mwi Epalle ’20 at the International School of Los Angeles has won grand prize in the annual Speak Truth to Power Video Contest.

Los Angeles, CA, April 24, 2018 –(PR.com)– Organized by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers and the Tribeca Film Institute, the national video contest has seen over 60,000 students engage with the platform since its inception. Using their entries as a tool to discuss human rights issues, students are challenged to become champions of change and justice.

In their winning film, Gary Tyler, My Neighbor, Fasquelle and Epalle tell the story of Gary Tyler, a man who was wrongly convicted of murder and served over 40 years in prison. When asked about this accomplishment, Head of School Michael Maniska says, “We are so proud of Ming-Wei and Mwi for tackling such an intense topic in such a sophisticated manner.”

Thanks to their elegant storytelling, the duo garnered high praise from the panel of critics comprising film industry experts, actors, and educators. In her judging notes, multi-award-winning actor and respected activist Alfre Woodard shared these compliments about the film, “Simplicity. Direct storytelling – simply truthful. Powerfully rendered.”

Next stop: the students have been invited to watch as Gary Tyler, My Neighbor is screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 24th.

About the International School of Los Angeles:
The International School of Los Angeles is an international preschool through 12th grade bilingual school which offers an English and French curriculum. All students study a common bilingual program from preschool through 9th grade after which they have a choice between the rigorous and well-balanced French baccalauréat and International Baccalaureate Diploma programs. The Washington Post consistently lists the International School of Los Angeles as one of the nation’s most challenging private high schools. With five Los Angeles-area campuses (Burbank, Los Feliz, Orange County, Pasadena, and West Valley), and over one thousand students, the School holds triple accreditation from the French Ministry of Education, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), and the International Baccalaureate (IB). The International School of Los Angeles is committed to academic excellence in a nurturing and intimate environment that encourages personal initiative, creativity and curiosity, and to preparing students of all backgrounds to excel and contribute to a global world. Since 1978, the School has been instilling the love of learning in all its students through small classes and low student-to-teacher ratios. With over 60 nationalities and 39 spoken languages represented on the campuses, students study and live in a diverse global community every day.

Media Contact:
Emmy Ansinelli – Marketing & Communications Director
International School of Los Angeles
818-994-2961 | emmy.ansinelli@lilaschool.com | www.internationalschool.la

Mike Farrell and Gary Tyler Speak Out Against the Death Penalty

All Saints Church discussion marks ‘World Day Against The Death Penalty’

Pasadena Now
By Eddie Rivera
October 12, 2017

Justice takes many faces and many forms. For some the answer to the death penalty question is swift and sure; for others, the lines are blurred between a respect for life and a respect for the victims.

For actor Mike Farrell, self-described “social justice advocate,” it has been a decades-long battle, as an opponent of the death penalty, and an advocate for prison reform. Known mostly for his role as for his role as “BJ Hunnicutt” in “M.A.S.H.” and from NBC-TV’s “Providence,” he is the current President of the Board of Directors of Death Penalty Focus, a spokesperson for Concern America, an international refugee aid and development organization, among other organizations.

On Tuesday evening, he gathered with fellow opponents of the death penalty, along with those who have have been personally affected, for a “World Day Against The Death Penalty with Mike Farrell and Friends,” at All Saints Church, for a panel discussion about what the Church called “the harms that the death penalty inflicts on exonerees, victims families, and our society at large.”

The discussion also marked the 15th Annual “World Day Against the Death Penalty.” With the passage of Prop 66 last November, California is inching closer to the resumption of executions.

The evening featured a sobering panel discussion with Farrell, California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty Member Bethany Webb, and Death Row Exoneree Gary Tyler.

“We have determined that some human beings are not human, are not worthwhile or capable, and that we can just do away with them,” Farrell told The LA Times last year, adding, “If you set up that belief system in a society, you can justify torture, assassinations by drone, just about anything.”

The death penalty has been in place continuously in California for almost 40 years, though executions were suspended in 2006 after the current method for lethal injection was challenged in court. Following 40 years of a legal death penalty in California, executions were halted in 2006, when the lethal injection method of execution was challenged. In 2014, a federal judge ruled the system unconstitutional, but the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision in 2016, bringing California closer to performing executions again.

Also participating in the panel was Gary Webb, who, in 1975, was sentenced to death as a youth in Louisiana for a crime he didn’t commit, making him the youngest man on death row.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to sentence minors to life without parole and applied its decision retroactively. Offered a plea bargain by prosecutors in order to avoid another trial, Gary agreed to plead “guilty” to manslaughter in exchange for his freedom. Having served 41 years in prison, Gary was released from prison in April 2016. He now lives in California and works on advocating against the death penalty and policies that support mass incarceration.

Panelist Bethany Webb, a loan officer and real estate agent who lives in Huntington Beach, lost her sister Laura Webb Elody in a 2011 mass shooting in Seal Beach.

When it came time to sentence her sister’s killer, Bethany told prosecutors at a sentencing hearing, she didn’t want the death penalty, saying, “There is no justice. Murdering someone else in my sister’s name would be defiling everything she was.” Says Webb, that although there is no doubt about the perpetrator in her sister’s case, she knows the death penalty leaves open the possibility of executing innocent people.

Gary Tyler on Maintaining Hope and Compassion in the U.S. Prison System

By Emma Niles
October 14, 2016

A life on death row is unimaginable for most people—but for almost 3,000 prisoners in the United States, it is stark reality.

Gary Tyler used to be one such prisoner, unjustly convicted and sentenced to death at age 16 for a crime he did not commit. After spending 41 years of his life at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, America’s largest maximum-security prison, Tyler was released in April.

Tyler sat down with the Truthdig team on Thursday for a live discussion on the U.S. prison system, streamed directly to our Facebook page.


Tyler recently sat for an interview with Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer for KCRW’s “Scheer Intelligence” podcast. They discussed how Tyler was able to hold on to hope during those dark decades—for himself and for the prison system itself.

“When I was in prison, I was introduced to a culture that I never thought existed,” Tyler told Scheer. “I’ll never forget that when I went to death row, they had these doors that were slamming and prisoners shouting and hollering. It was like being introduced to an insane asylum, I guess.”

During his time in prison, Tyler directed a passion play featuring other inmates as cast members. This project became the basis of the documentary “Cast the First Stone.” Tyler explains:

Of course, I was able to recruit people from all walks of life in the prison. Also, that we’re talking about some people that had disciplinary problems and I knew these guys. I knew that giving them a chance, an opportunity, I could help transform them. I like that I had opportunity to interview and audition, you understand, these guys, because I opened it up to the prison population and I was getting, if you consider the worst of the worst, and to hear these guys say, “Give me chance. Let me prove myself.” It’s like people asking society, “Give me a second chance.” So, I heard their cries and I gave them that chance. I found them to be the most committed and dedicated actors that I had in the production.

A New Way of Life Justice on Trial Film Festival Set for Sept.17-18

Los Angeles Sentinel
By Shirley Hawkins
September 14, 2016

Statistics from the Sentencing Project on Racial Disparities in the U.S.Criminal Justice System found that “one out of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime.”

One of the victims of the penal system was Gary Tyler, who was only 16-years-old when he was charged with a crime he did not commit. Sentenced to the notorious Angola maximum-security prison in West Feliciano Parish, Louisiana, Tyler languished in prison for the next 41 years.

Tyler’s ordeal began in 1974, when public schools were undergoing integration. He was sitting on a bus filled with African-American students leaving Destrehan High School in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, when a crowd of approximately 200 began yelling out racial slurs and throwing rocks and bottles.

A shot rang out that wounded 13-year-old white class mate Timothy Weber, who later died at the local hospital.

The bus was searched and sheriffs deputies claimed they found a gun hidden between the seats (which was never recovered) and arrested Tyler for the murder.

Within a week, Tyler was tried by an all-white jury and was sentenced to death by electric chair. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Louisiana’s death penalty was unconstitutional. Instead, Tyler received life in prison.

“When they arrested me, I told them that I was innocent, but no one listened,” Tyler sadly recalls.

Even though four witnesses on the bus later recanted their testimony about the teen shooting Weber, Tyler was subsequently shipped to Angola prison, the youngest inmate ever to be incarcerated in the country.

Tyler recalls his sense of fear as the metal gates clanged shut on his jail cell. “When the prison gates shut behind me, I felt as if I was shut off from the rest of the world,” he recalled. “You knew you would not exit those gates once they were closed.”

Tyler said that Angola prison turned out to be a test of sheer survival. “Angola was the bloodiest, most infamous prison in the nation,” he said. “It was a prison of turmoil where prisoners were killing each other and committing suicide. Some prisoners were beaten to death by guards.”

For the next 40 years, Tyler’s attorneys worked diligently to prove his innocence. His case gained national attention and he was finally freed on April 29, 2016.

Tyler, now 58, said he was relieved to flee his nightmarish four-decades of incarceration and has since relocated to Pasadena, CA.

“I’m taking life day-by-day,” said Tyler, who said he has been embraced by a team of people who are helping him to adjust to civilian life.

On Saturday, Sept.17, Tyler will serve as the keynote speaker at the 2016 4th Annual “A New Way of Life Justice on Trial Film Festival” at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles on Sept. 17 and 18. He will discuss his incarceration, his feelings on prison reform and his struggle with forgiveness.

His speech will follow the showing of the gritty, eye-opening “Cast the First Stone,” a film about redemption that features Tyler.

The two-day festival will feature seven documentaries including the Oscar-nominated “Last Day of Freedom,” “South Bureau Homicide,” “The Return,” “The ‘If’ Project,” ”Out in the Night” and “They Call Us Monsters.”

Screenings will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers. On Sunday, Sept.18 at 3 p.m., a “Power Panel” discussion will feature social justice activists, including Monique Morris, author of “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools” and New York Attorney and lecturer Rick Jones (Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem).

The JOT Film Fest is the brainchild of New York Times best-selling author Michelle Alexander and Susan Burton, founder of A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project, a non-profit organization that assists formerly incarcerated women.

“This weekend we will review films, listen and engage in conversation around competing content with an eye toward working and pushing for justice,” said Burton. “This film festival will serve as a platform for dialogue and action.”

Tickets are $25.00 for both days and will be available on site. For ticket information, access JOTFF@anewwayoflife.org or call (323) 563-3575.

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

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.