[Pnews] Gary Tyler Freed After 41 Years Of Unconstitutional Life Sentence

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Mon May 2 10:46:30 EDT 2016


*http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/louisiana-gary-tyler-freed_us_572423bce4b01a5ebde5c12b* 



  Louisiana Prisoner Freed After 41 Years Of Unconstitutional Life Sentence

April 29, 2016

A Louisiana man walked free from the state’s notorious Angola prison 
late on Friday after serving 41 years of an unconstitutional life 
sentence over the shooting death of a white high school student during a 
violent and racially charged chapter in the state’s fight to segregate 
schools.

The high-profile case of Gary Tyler, 57, ended when he entered a guilty 
plea and was sentenced to 21 years - just over half of the time served - 
and told he could go home Friday, according to a statement released on 
behalf of Tyler and his attorneys.

Tyler is among a generation of prisoners who faced harsh conditions and 
years or even decades in solitary confinement for convictions during 
racially charged events in Louisiana.

Angola is considered among the toughest of the state’s prisons, once a 
part of a Deep South plantation and known for seething racial tensions 
and harsh treatment of inmates.

At age 16 in 1974, Tyler was the youngest person on Louisiana’s Death 
Row, where an all-white jury sent Tyler, who is black, to die for the 
slaying of 13-year-old Thomas Weber, a fellow Destrehan High School 
student in St. Charles Parish in southern Louisiana.

Tyler was aboard a bus filled with black students who were passing an 
unruly crowd of white students when Weber was shot, the statement said. 
Police found a gun on the bus and Tyler was charged with capital murder 
and tried as an adult.

After his death sentence, black and white students who testified against 
him recanted their stories. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals called his 
conviction fundamentally unfair and said he was never given his right to 
the presumption of innocence. But he never received a new trial.

In 1976, his death sentence was commuted to life after the state’s 
mandatory death penalty was ruled unconstitutional. In the following two 
decades, the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Paroles voted three times to 
lessen his sentence.

Still, Tyler served eight years in solitary confinement and more than 30 
years in the general population, where he became a mentor and a leader. 
His case drew national attention as an example of the unfair convictions 
and over-the-top sentencing and treatment of minorities in the Louisiana 
justice system at the time.

In 2012, life without parole for juvenile offenders was also ruled 
unconstitutional, and earlier this year, a court decided the ruling 
should be retroactive - giving prosecutors a legal avenue to reduce 
Tyler’s sentence with a guilty plea on Friday.

(Reporting by Karen Brooks in Fort Worth, Texas, editing by G Crosse)

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