The Nation, a publication the assiduous reader knows I follow with some regularity, has sent me this mail:
Gary Tyler, black, now aged 48, is serving a life prison sentence in Louisiana State Penitentiary. 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.
As Bob Hébert wrote in the first of a 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.” Hébert’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 people from the world of sports to ask if they would stand with Tyler at this critical time. And they have responded.
This is the text of the athletes’ letter to Governor Kathleen Blanco:
We, the undersigned members of the sports community, call upon you, in the name of justice and racial reconciliation, to pardon Gary Tyler and free him from Angola prison. Gary is an innocent man who has spent 32 of his 48 years on earth behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Gary’s life has been destroyed because of racial hysteria and that peculiar brand of police work known internationally as “Southern Justice.”
As you are undoubtedly aware, New York Times columnist Bob Hébert has spent the last month exposing the terrifying truth behind Gary’s conviction. In 1975, Gary Tyler, an African-American teenager, was convicted by an all-white jury for the murder of Timothy Weber, a thirteen-year-old white youth. Weber was shot and killed during a busing riot where 200 whites attacked Gary’s school bus. Weber’s death quite understandably sent shock waves across the state. The police needed a killer. They chose Gary and his nightmare officially began. Gary’s mother detailed to Hébert the sounds of listening to deputies at the police station savagely whipping her son, while they blocked her from entering the room. “They beat Gary so bad,” she said. “My poor child. I couldn’t do nothing.” Every witness who identified Gary as the shooter has since recanted and alleged police intimidation. The gun supposedly used on that day has disappeared.
In the mid-1970s, Gary’s case mobilized thousands across the country for his freedom and led Amnesty International to declare him a “political prisoner.” Denied a fair trial 32 years ago, imprisoned for life for a crime he did not commit–we call upon you to free Gary Tyler now.
You, too, can write Governor Kathleen Blanco, asking for Gary Tyler’s immediate release.
Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Governor
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004
225-342-0991 or 225-342-7015
The letters will help, although Blanco is apparently not empowered to act alone upon this matter.