Wednesday, November 28, 2007

[olympiaworkers] Amnesty International Action Alert for Gary Tyler

Amnesty International Action Alert for Gary Tyler

> Dear Gary Tyler supporter,
> Below is an action alert recently issued by Amnesty International. Please
> distribute this widely.
> The Free Gary Tyler Committee
> ----------------------
> Gary Tyler, a 49-year-old African American has spent more than 33 years in
> prison in Louisiana after being convicted of murder in the shooting of a
> white schoolboy during a racially charged incident in 1974. Aged 16 at the
> time, Gary Tyler has consistently maintained his innocence of the murder
> and federal reviewing courts have declared his trial fundamentally unfair.
> Earlier this year, a petition was filed with the Louisiana Pardon Board
> requesting that Gary Tyler's life sentence be commuted to a defined number
> of years so that the outgoing state governor can authorize his release
> before she leaves office in January 2008. This may be Gary Tyler's last
> chance for justice through executive clemency.
> Gary 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, Louisiana, in October 1974. The shot had allegedly come
> from a bus carrying black students which was under attack by white people
> throwing stones and bottles. The attack on the bus took place during a
> period of intense opposition by the white community to racial integration
> and the bussing of black students to the formerly all-white high school,
> situated in a predominantly white neighbourhood. Gary Tyler was charged
> with the shooting based primarily on the testimony of one student and the
> alleged murder weapon which police found in the seat where he had been
> sitting; having failed to find the weapon during an earlier search.
> Although he was only 16 at the time, Gary Tyler was tried as an adult in a
> trial which was seriously flawed. Despite heightened racial tension in the
> area, there was no change of trial venue and he was tried by an all-white
> jury from which members of the black community had been excluded. His
> defence attorney, who specialised in civil, rather than criminal, cases
> failed to prepare for trial and did not interview witnesses or conduct
> tests on the physical evidence offered by the state. He spent a total of
> about one hour with Gary Tyler in the whole year prior to the trial. The
> judge instructed the jury wrongly that Tyler had to prove himself innocent
> of an essential element of the case. Gary Tyler was convicted of
> first-degree murder and was originally sentenced to death; his sentence
> was
> later commuted to life imprisonment when the state's death penalty statute
> was ruled unconstitutional.
> Since his trial, further investigation has cast doubt on the reliability
> of
> the physical evidence in the case and the key prosecution witnesses have
> recanted their testimony. In two decisions, federal review courts have
> ruled that Gary Tyler's trial was fundamentally unfair and that he was
> denied the presumption of innocence, but refused to give him a new trial
> because his trial lawyer had not objected to this error at the time. Three
> previous pardon boards have recognized the unfairness of Gary Tyler's
> conviction and recommended a commutation of sentence, but no governor has
> yet taken action.
> Gary Tyler served the first nine years of his sentence in 23-hour a day
> lock-down in solitary confinement. However, since being transferred to the
> prison's general population, he has been able to turn his life around. He
> obtained his general educational certificate (GED) and trained in
> construction. He has been active for more than 20 years in the Angola
> prison drama club where he has written and performed in plays for
> children.
> He also works as a volunteer in the Angola prison hospice. He worked for
> over a year as part of a small team of volunteer prisoners assisting in
> the
> clean-up of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
> Despite his youth at the time of trial, and his exemplary record in
> prison,
> Gary Tyler has served more than three times as much as the national US
> average for a person convicted of murder or non-negligent manslaughter. As
> a life sentenced prisoner Gary Tyler cannot be granted release on parole
> unless his sentence is first commuted to a term of years by the Pardon
> Board and the Board's recommendation is accepted by the Governor. High
> ranking staff at Angola have reportedly endorsed his latest application
> for
> a pardon on the ground that he has matured into a responsible citizen
> deserving of release. However, to date his name has not yet appeared on
> the
> parole board's docket for a hearing, and it is feared that, without
> further
> pressure, he may miss the chance to be heard before the governor leaves
> office.
> RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible,
> in English or your own language:
> - expressing concern about the case of Gary Tyler, who is serving a life
> sentence in Angola prison, Louisiana;
> - expressing deep regret for the murder of Timothy Weber and sympathy for
> his family, while noting the very serious concerns that have been raised
> about the fairness of Gary Tyler's trial and the evidence on which he was
> convicted;
> - urging the Governor of Louisiana to ensure that Gary Tyler is granted a
> hearing before the Pardon Board in December; and that she grant him a
> pardon authorising his release;
> - pointing out that, even without concerns about the fairness of his
> trial,
> there are strong grounds for executive clemency based on Gary Tyler's
> efforts to improve himself in prison and the supportive work he has done
> both in the community and in prison;
> - note that on at least three separate occasions the Louisiana pardons
> board has recommended to two state governors that Gary Tyler's sentence
> should be reduced;
> - stating that he has served longer than many prisoners sentenced to
> similar terms, despite his young age at the time of his conviction; and
> that his age and length of time served should be taken into account as
> further grounds for clemency in this case;
> - stating that you believe there are compelling grounds for the Governor
> to
> take this step in the interests of justice.
> Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco
> Office of the Governorâ?¨PO Box 94004â?¨Baton Rougeâ?¨LA 70804-9004, USA
> Fax: +1 225 342 7099
> Email:
> Salutation: Dear Governor
> Pardon Board
> 504 Mayflower Street
> Building 6
> Baton Rouge, LA 70902, USA
> Fax: + 1 225 342 2289
> and diplomatic representatives of USA accredited to your country.
> PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
> or your section office, if sending appeals after 28 December 2007.

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