[Ppnews] Amnesty International calls for Gary Tyler pardon

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 12 11:13:59 EST 2007



Public Statement

AI Index: AMR 51/026/2007 (Public)
News Service No: 029
12 February 2007

USA: Serious miscarriage of justice in Louisiana must be rectified

Amnesty International is renewing its call to the Louisiana 
authorities for a pardon to be granted to Gary Tyler, a 49 year-old 
African-American man who has been in prison in Louisiana since the 
age of 17, and whose 1975 trial was infected with racial prejudice.

Tyler was convicted in 1975 of the murder of Timothy Weber, a white 
13 year-old schoolboy who was shot outside Destrehan High School, St 
Charles Parish, during racial disturbances. Tyler had been one of 
many black students on a bus carrying black students back to their 
homes which was being attacked by white people throwing stones and 
bottles, and from which the shot had allegedly come. Following the 
shooting, all male students on the bus were searched immediately, and 
the bus was searched twice. No gun was found. The bus was then taken 
with the students to the police station, where following questioning, 
one female student said she had been sitting next to Tyler and had 
seen him fire a gun into the crowd. Following this testimony, police 
then found a .45 automatic gun stuffed inside a seat, through a long, 
visible tear in the seat. The same seat had previously been searched, 
shaken and turned upside down several times, and nothing had been 
found. Gary Tyler was detained in the police station where there is 
strong evidence that he was savagely beaten. He did not make any 
statement implicating himself in any way.

At the time of the incident, racial tensions in the area were running 
high as whites attempted to resist racial integration. There were 
frequent clashes in which the Klu Klux Klan played a leading role. 
Gary Tyler was tried by an all white jury from which members of the 
black community had been deliberately excluded. He received seriously 
deficient legal representation at his trial from a white lawyer who 
specialized in civil cases and who spent only one hour with Tyler 
during the whole year previous to his trial. Furthermore, he did not 
interview witnesses, present any expert witnesses or conduct tests on 
physical evidence offered by the state, and failed to object to gross 
errors committed by the trial judge, later found in the appeal court 
to have made Tylers trial fundamentally unfair. Since the trial, 
evidence has come to light indicating that Tyler did not shoot the 
victim, including witnesses who testified against Tyler at trial and 
later recanted, saying that they were coerced by the police to make 
statements against him, and questionable forensic evidence which did 
not clearly and definitely implicate Tyler in the murder.

Originally sentenced to death, Tylers death sentence was overturned 
in 1977 following a ruling by the US Supreme Court in 1976 which 
declared the states death penalty unconstitutional, and his sentence 
was commuted to life imprisonment without parole, probation, or 
suspension of sentence for 20 years.

In two decisions a federal appeals court ruled that Tyler had been 
convicted on the basis of unconstitutional charge which had infected 
the trial to the point of rendering it fundamentally unfair. In its 
first decision, the court vacated Tylers conviction and ordered a 
retrial. However, following an appeal by the state, the court 
reversed its previous decision ordering a new trial, although it did 
not dispute its finding of unconstitutionality, and reiterated its 
view that the trial had been fundamentally unfair. On at least three 
separate occasions the Louisiana Board of Pardons recommended to two 
state governors that Gary Tylers sentence should be reduced, on one 
occasion, making him immediately eligible for parole, but these 
recommendations were rejected.

If Louisianas death penalty had not been found unconstitutional, it 
is very likely that Gary Tyler would have been executed before now. 
Amnesty International is calling on Governor Blanco to rectify this 
shocking injustice by granting a pardon to Gary Tyler with immediate 
effect and by ordering a full, independent investigation into his 
case so that anyone found to have been involved in any cover-up or 
abuse is brought to justice.

For more information on Gary Tylers case and full details of Amnesty 
Internationals concerns, see: USA: The Case of Gary Tyler, AMR51/89/94.

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