Gary Tyler, black, now aged 48, is serving a life prison sentence in the infamous State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. He was convicted in 1975 for the murder of 13-year-old Timothy Weber, a white schoolboy who was shot during an attack by a white mob on a school bus filled with black students.
Tyler, who was 16 at the time of the incident, has consistently denied involvement in the crime. Since his trial, serious doubts have been raised about the evidence on which he was convicted, according to Amnesty International, which named him a prisoner of conscience in 1994 and which argues that Tyler was denied a fair trial and that racial prejudice played a major part in his prosecution. (Two months ago the human rights group renewed its call to the Louisiana authorities for a pardon to be granted Tyler.)
Tyler was tried by an all-white jury with members of the black community deliberately excluded from jury selection. The prosecution relied mainly on the testimony of one student, Nathalie Blanks, who was in the same bus with Tyler. She testified to having seen him fire the gun but after the trial she recanted her testimony. Other students who also testified against Tyler have later recanted, saying that they were coerced by the police to making the statements.
As Bob Herbert wrote in the first of a recent series of three New York Times' columns on Tyler, "That single shot in this rural town about 25 miles up the Mississippi River from New Orleans set in motion a tale of appalling injustice that has lasted to the present day." Herbert's reporting has helped revive interest in the case and and given the miscarriage of justice new visibility.
Building on this momentum, Nation sportswriter Dave Zirin recently contacted a range of people from the world of sports to ask if they would stand with Tyler at this critical time. Numerous athletes have joined their name to the cause, including NBA player Etan Thomas, boxer Ruben "Hurricane" Carter, olympic medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos and former major league pitchers Jim Bouton and Bill Lee.
How you can help:
**Download and distribute 'Time To Free Gary Tyler' flyers.
**Send a letter of support to Tyler. Here's his address: Gary Tyler # 84156, Louisiana State PenitentiaryASH-4, Angola, LA 70712.
**Spread the word about this travesty of justice. Click here to read and circulate background info on the case.