[Ppnews] Amnesty International calls for Gary Tyler pardon
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 12 11:13:59 EST 2007
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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