American Federation of Teachers 1976 Convention Resolution No. 28 New Trial for Gary Tyler

Submitted by: The United Teachers of New Orleans, Local 527

Whereas, Gary Tyler was singled out from a bus load of Black students following the shooting of a white student during a racial disturbance at Destrehan High School, which has had a history of such disturbances, and

Whereas, seventeen tear old Gary Tyler was convicted of murder by an all white jury and sentenced to death, and

Whereas, several witnesses have said on the stand that original testimony at Gary’s trial was coerced under threat of prosecution, and

Whereas, the only witness who said at the trail she saw Gary Tyler fire a gun has since testified that her testimony at the trial was, and

Whereas, the prosecution has failed to establish any connection between Gary Tyler and the alleged murder weapon, and

Whereas, the trial judge has refused to grant a new trial despite new evidence, and

Whereas, the American Federation of Teachers opposes any miscarriage of justice, and

Whereas, the American Federation of Teachers has consistently gone on record in favor of the right of all students regardless of race and recognizes the responsibility of school and law enforcement authorities to protect this right, now therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers join the thousands of Americans who have already demanded justice in this case by going on record in favor of a new trial for Gary Tyler.

The committee recommends adoption and so I move.

PRESIDENT SHANKER: Discussion Microphone No.1

DELEGATE JACQUELYN SHILOH, (Local 527, United Teachers of New Orleans)

I would like to speak in favor of this resolution.

On Monday, Senator Walter Mondale addressed this convention and stated the laws applies equally to everyone in America.

Gary Tyler is an 18-year old American, however, the law does not apply equally to Gary Tyler because he was tried and convicted for a murder he did not commit.

At the time this happened, Gary Tyler was a student at a high school in St. Charles Parish about 30 miles up the river from New Orleans.

The school has a history of racial disturbances. On October 7, 1974, a series of fights occurred at the school. An angry mob of white parents gathered outside the school.

This cased the principal to close the school. The black students were herded out and out on buses.

A shot rang out and a thirteen year old white student lay dead.

The whites in the community decided someone had to pay for that murder and Gary Tyler was that person.

Immediately after the shot was fired all the black students were taken off the bus and they were searched for two hours.

Still no weapon was found.

The sheriffs in the area could find no proof that any of the students fired a shot.

The students were then brought to a sheriff’s substation, searched again for three hours.

Finally, the sheriffs found a gun which they claimed was hidden in the seat and which later was stolen from a sheriff’s firing range.

They claim this gun killed the 13-year old student. They also managed to extract testimony from one student, a female student who claimed she saw Gary fire this gun.

Unfortunately, Gary Tyler did not have a competent attorney. When his case came to court thirteen months after he was originally arrested, he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death row in Angola State Penitentiary.

Later the one student who gave this damaging evidence against Gary Tyler recanted her testimony and it was discovered that this girl had been under the care of a psychiatrist since she was eight years old. The problem, the inability to distinguish the truth from a lie.

No fingerprints were found on the gun and a bullet from that gun and the bullet that was supposed to have killed the student, after undergoing ballistic tests, could never be proven to have passed through a human body.

Gary Tyler than obtained a new attorney. This attorney appealed for a new trial. This appeal went before the same judge who originally sentenced him to and is also a member of the White Citizens Council.

Of course, the motion for a new trial was denied and the case is now being appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court and is going to be heard in the fall.

I would urge that the delegates here support this resolution and join the many thousands of other persons in asking for a new trial, fair trial for Gary Tyler.

Thank you.

After much discussion, the delegates passed the resolution nearly unanimously.

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