[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, LA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Aug 26 20:34:27 UTC 2006
JUDGE DENIES MOTION TO DELAY BROWN TRIAL
A 25-year-old Tyler man accused of kidnapping his girlfriend in a stolen
car and killing her was in court on Friday, when a state district judge
denied a motion to delay the trial set for October.
Terry Glenn Brown faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted
of capital murder for allegedly killing Crystal A'Brada Sims, 27, of
Tyler. The victim's body was found early Dec. 14 by Brown's father in his
pasture off of Farm-to-Market Road 344, just east of Bullard. Brown was
arrested the same day and indicted on Feb. 6.
Defense attorney Jeff Haas filed a motion for continuance because, he
said, he would not be prepared to go to trial in October due to his
Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham said he had no objection to
the trial being postponed and said the state provided Haas with the
evidence in the case before the deadline on July 18.
Citing several other capital murder cases set over the next 6 months,
241st District Judge Jack Skeen Jr. said he was concerned with the period
of time Brown has been in jail and said that if he moved the case, it
would have to be in the spring of 2007.
He said he believed the case needed to be tried before then and said the
trial has been specially set for some time.
Haas said he didn't think his client would have a problem waiting in jail
for 3 to 5 months longer if he had more time to prepare his case. He said
he could waive any speedy trial issues. But, after the judge denied the
motion, he said he would get co-counsel Guy Conine and his investigators
to work on the case and if they were not prepared, they would revisit the
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Oct. 12 and the trial is set to begin
After several phone calls to authorities by the families of Ms. Sims and
Brown about her welfare, officials located Brown, who told deputies he had
dropped her off in Bossier City, La.
Brown's former mother-in-law told deputies Brown appeared "high on
methamphetamine" and displayed schizophrenic behavior after he came to her
house and scared her and her grandchildren.
"The 2 were a couple and had gone to Bossier City together and we believe
through the course of our investigation that Brown forcibly brought her
back to this location and shot her ... in the head," Smith County Sheriff
Lt. Larry Wiginton said earlier.
The arrest affidavit states Ms. Sims' sister called the sheriff's
department, reporting that Brown had stolen a friend's Cadillac in Bossier
City and had prevented Ms. Sims from getting out of the vehicle by pulling
"Cynthia Brown (his mother) advised when she asked her son where Crystal
was, Terry Glenn Brown Jr. advised her, 'I killed her,'" the affidavit
Wiginton said Brown had been arrested earlier and was in jail on an
outstanding warrant and other charges, but was later charged with the
Also in court Friday for a pre-trial hearing was Francisco Saucedo,
charged with shooting a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper.
Saucedo is to go to trial Sept. 18 for aggravated assault on a public
servant in 114th District Judge Cynthia Stevens Kent's court.
Saucedo was indicted with Ramon Ramos on 14 charges for the March 22
shooting of DPS Trooper Steven Stone, who had stopped the men for a
traffic violation, and for shooting at 13 officers who responded to
Stone's call for help, were led on a high-speed chase and were shot at by
Ramos pleaded guilty to the 14 counts of aggravated assault on a public
servant and received 14 life sentences, 2 of which he must serve
consecutively; he will be eligible for parole in 60 years.
(source: Tyler Morning Telegraph)
Longtime death row inmate now a free man
A longtime death row inmate is a free man, released Friday afternoon after
nearly 20 years behind bars.
Martin Allen Draughon was first sent to death row for robbing and killing
a Houston fast food worker in 1986. He was given a new trial after
questions were brought up about the accuracy of evidence testing by the
Houston Police Department's crime lab.
In a retrial, Draughon was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Draughon has his own website and has been posting messages about his time
He writes, in part, "The raging psychological war sitting helpless on
death row, does tend to get a bit tense at times. Somehow I am still
maintaining the slightest shimmer of hope not to be executed here."
Draughon will be monitored with a tracking system. He spent a total of 19
years and nine months behind bars.
You may remember an investigation more than three years ago uncovered
serious problems at the Houston Police Department crime lab. The lab was
shut down after cases of mistakes and damaged evidence were found. The lab
was re-accredited just a few months ago, and is now up and running under
Man again convicted in double murder----He previously spent 3 years on
Lawrence Jacobs Jr., who before his conviction was overturned spent 3
years on Louisiana's death row for his part in the execution-style killing
of a Marrero man and his elderly mother almost 10 years ago, was convicted
Friday of 2 2nd-degree murder charges for the same crime.
Jacobs, a 16-year-old Harvey resident at the time of the Oct. 31, 1996
shootings, was convicted of killing Nelson Beaugh, 45, and his mother
Della Beaugh, 70, of Morgan City. Della Beaugh was visiting her son at the
Cedar Lawn Drive home he shared with his wife and their 2 young children.
Beaugh's family was not home at the time of the crime.
The victims were held in the master bedroom while their armed assailants
searched the house for things to steal. Nelson Beaugh was shot in the
head, cheek and shoulder, and Della Beaugh was shot once in the back of
Jacobs and Roy Bridgewater, then 17 and also convicted in the killings,
were in the Marrero neighborhood in search of victims when they spotted
Nelson Beaugh outside his home and forced him inside at gunpoint,
Shortly before, they approached a woman outside her home nearby, but moved
on to the Beaughs' home, prosecutors said.
The duo had been convicted of a similar crime that happened a month
earlier in Marrero in which a couple was beaten, and Jacobs has pleaded
guilty to yet another such crime that happened less then 24 hours before
the Beaugh killings, prosecutors said.
"They're in our neighborhood on the prowl while most people are driving
their kids to school," Assistant District Attorney Frank Brindisi said in
closing statements. "They're hunting us like we're prey, and this is a
The Jefferson Parish jury deliberated nearly 1 hours before reaching the
unanimous verdicts, rejecting the defense attorneys' arguments that Jacobs
was a gawky, troubled youth who ran away from his stable, middle-class
home in Harvey and fell under the spell of the street-wise Bridgewater,
then a Gretna resident whom Jacobs maintains is the killer.
Jacobs and Bridgewater, who blames Jacobs for the killings, were convicted
separately in 1998 of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to die.
Bridgewater's conviction was reduced to 2nd-degree murder on appeal,
meaning a life sentence in prison.
Jacobs' conviction and death sentence were tossed out by the state Supreme
Court in June 2001, because 2 men who believed death was the only
punishment for murder were wrongly allowed into the jury.
Jacobs escaped the possibility of being sent back to death row last year
when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an unrelated case that executing
people who were juveniles at the time of their crimes is unconstitutional.
Jacobs now faces life in prison, the mandatory sentence for 2nd-degree
murder. Judge Kernan "Skip" Hand of the 24th Judicial District Court set
sentencing for Oct. 7.
As the verdicts were read Friday evening, Jacobs, now 26, stood motionless
beside his attorneys, Christine Lehmann and Phyliss Mann of the Louisiana
Capital Assistance Center.
Members of the Beaugh family, some who fought tears, declined to comment
Lehmann portrayed Bridgewater as "someone older, meaner and more
street-savvy" than Jacobs. She said Bridgewater ruled by "verbal
"And he fell into the grips of Roy Bridgewater," Mann told the jury in
closing statements, attempting to deflect guilt from Jacobs in hopes of
the jury convicting him of a lesser charge.
Brindisi countered: "What are they trying to say? Roy Bridgewater is pure
evil and Lawrence Jacobs is just a little evil?"
Assistant District Attorneys Donnie Rowan, Chuck Cusimano and Brindisi
conceded that they could not prove who killed the Beaughs, though evidence
does not rule out Jacobs as the shooter.
In either case, Rowan said, Jacobs is guilty under the state's
"felony-murder doctrine," which says that regardless of whether he pulled
the trigger, he participated in an aggravated burglary during which people
30 Years of Injustice----Free Gary Tyler
Gary Tyler, at one time the youngest person on death row, turned 48 years
old this July. He has spent 32 of those years in jail for a crime he did
not commit. The case of Gary Tyler is one of the great miscarriages of
justice in the modern history of the United States, in a country where the
miscarriage of justice is part of the daily routine of government
business. "This case is just permeated with racism all the way through
it," declared Mary Howell, Gary's longtime attorney, "from the initial
event all the way up to the pardon process." Yet, far too few people are
aware of Gary Tyler's case, which in the mid-1970s mobilized thousands
across the country for his freedom and led Amnesty International to
declare him a political prisoner. Over the last twenty years, hundreds of
death row inmates and scores of others have been exonerated for the crimes
they were falsely convicted of by racist and corrupt prosecutors. It's
long past time that Gary Tyler should have gone free.
In 1975, Gary Tyler, an African-American teenager, was wrongly convicted
by an all-white jury for the murder of Timothy Weber, a 13-year-old white
youth. Weber had been killed the previous year during an attack by a
racist white mob on a school bus filled with African-American high school
students in Destrehan, Louisiana. Tyler's trial was characterized by
coerced testimony, planted evidence, judicial misconduct, and an
incompetent defense. He was sentenced to death by electrocution at the age
of 17. On the 1st appeal of his conviction in1981, a federal appeals court
said that Tyler was "denied a fundamentally fair trial," but refused to
order a new one for him. During this same period, the Louisiana death
penalty was ruled unconstitutional. Gary Tyler's death sentence was lifted
and he was resentenced to life in prison. He is currently incarcerated in
Louisiana's infamous Angola prison. Racism in the high schools
In 1974, the tensions created by the resistance of whites to desegregation
resulted in frequent clashes in which the Ku Klux Klan, the white
supremacist organization, played a leading role. -Amnesty International .
To understand the case of Gary Tyler, we must go back to a largely
forgotten episode in American politics-the battle over the desegregation
of public schools in the 1970s, and the eruption of racist violence that
occurred in reaction to it across the country. In 1954, the Supreme Court,
led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, ordered the desegregation of public
schools "with all deliberate speed." The ruling was seen as a huge victory
for the NAACP and those who advocated a legal strategy for ending Jim Crow
in the United States. However, white dominated, racist local school boards
in the South and the North (largely dominated by the Democratic Party)
were able to avoid implementing the court order for years, if not decades.
They did this through a variety of deceitful methods that included, among
other things, the use of busing to keep schools segregated.
By the early to mid-seventies, the time had run out for most of these
local school boards, and the federal courts ordered them to come up with
plans to desegregate the schools. This almost always involved busing Black
schools kids from their largely Black neighborhoods into all-white
neighborhoods, where they often encountered racist mobs. In fact, some of
the most cowardly and despicable displays of racism ever captured on film
took place during this period of time. Boston was the worst example of
this, if only because the city had an undeserved "liberal" reputation.
When photos of the racist violence in Boston hit the front pages of
newspapers across the country and the footage was televised on the network
news, it shocked many people. White racist, mobs-led mostly by parents and
egged on by local Democratic Party leaders-attacked school buses as they
entered white neighborhoods with rocks and bottles. The white mobs broke
the windows of the buses and injured the terrified Black school kids. The
police, largely drawn from the same white neighborhoods, stood by or
dragged their feet and intervened too late to stop the violence.
Boston may have been the most famous example of the "battle over busing,"
as the media called it, but it wasn't the only place where racist violence
occurred. The opposition to court ordered desegregation spread across the
country, particularly in such midsized cities as Detroit, Michigan;
Louisville, Kentucky; Wilmington, North Carolina; and Richmond, California
Racist violence also spread to relatively isolated areas, like Destrehan,
Louisiana, where Gary Tyler was a student at the local high school. The
bigots tried to cloak their opposition to integration by claiming that
they were only opposed to "forced busing" and were defending "neighborhood
schools," but the open display of Confederate flags and the racist filth
spewed by politicians and "anti-busing" activists revealed their real
agenda. They were encouraged by unelected Republican President Gerald
Ford, who publicly supported them, and the Republican establishment, which
began to realize that busing, along with a host of other issues, could be
used to drive a wedge between the national Democratic Party and urban,
This political opportunity was also not missed by Klan and neo-Nazi
organizations, which recruited members and organized openly. In Louisiana,
David Duke-Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), who in
his college years paraded around in a Nazi uniform-placed himself at the
center of the anti-busing movement.
Coming back to the South, it was like taking me out of the light and
putting me into darkness" -Gary Tyler, 1990
Destrehan is located in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. It is part of
Louisiana's old plantation country that runs along the Mississippi River
between New Orleans and the state capitol Baton Rouge. While the
plantations are almost entirely gone, the elegant mansions built by slave
labor remain and are a major tourist attraction. "Plantation homes are to
Louisiana what the crown jewels are to England-each is a sparkling gem, in
an equally spellbinding setting, with a unique story attached," according
to one of Louisiana's tourist Web sites. "The unique story" referred to is
the Gone With the Wind version of history of the plantation South commonly
found in the former states of the Confederacy. What's missing from this
unique story is the tyranny and misery of slavery and Jim Crow, and the
persistence of racism that continues to dominate the lives of its Black
residents to this very day. Oil replaced agriculture as the master of the
Louisiana economy long ago. For the past seventy years, the economy of St.
Charles and the other surrounding parishes has been dominated by the
petrochemical industry, whose smokestacks and storage bins dot the
landscape. Many oil refineries were built on or adjacent to the old
plantations. Though a fabulously profitable industry, it has provided very
little employment over the decades for Blacks or whites in the region.
Gary Tyler was born in New Orleans in 1958. In 1970, the Tyler family
moved to St. Rose, about twenty miles upriver from New Orleans. Destrehan
is a short five miles further north. His mother Juanita Tyler, worked as a
domestic servant, and her husband Uylos, a maintenance man who held down
three jobs simultaneously, worked to support a family of eleven kids. When
he was 12 years old, Gary left Louisiana to live with his sister Ella in
the Watts section of Los Angeles, now better known as South-Central.
"There," according to journalist Amy Singer, "he was exposed to people and
ideas that hadn't made their way to St. Rose: the Black Panthers; activist
Angela Davis; the antiwar movement. Tyler attended rallies and began to
develop a political awareness."
Gary returned to Louisiana two years later, in 1972, and was not at all
happy about it. "Coming back to the South, it was like taking me out of
the light and putting me into darkness," Gary lamented many years later.
Living in Los Angeles at the height of the Black Power and antiwar
movements was clearly exciting and interesting compared to living in an
isolated area of the country like St. Charles Parish. The "darkness"-we
can infer-was the grinding poverty and suffocating racism of small town
Louisiana life. This is when his scrapes with the law began. Gary was
arrested twice for burglary (one he says he's guilty of and another he
says he didn't do) and spent 7 months in a juvenile institution. He was
also considered something of a radical; intelligent and outspoken, and
someone who demanded respect from persons in authority. Gary Tyler, in
short, was the type of young Black person that cops, particularly white
cops in small Southern towns, really despise; a police officer years later
would refer to him as a "smart nigger."
They were on the attack, man. It was panic. -Terry Tyler, Gary's brother
When the crisis came at Destrehan High School, Gary Tyler already loomed
large in the minds of key members of the local sheriff's department as a
"troublemaker"; but the chain of events that led to his arrest and
persecution began years before October 1974.
The school authorities in Destrehan strongly resisted the pressure for
school integration during the 1960s. The federal courts ultimately ordered
the Destrehan authorities to begin desegregating their schools in 1968.
That, however, didn't put an end to the deeply ingrained racism of the
white residents or their resistance to school integration. Racist violence
continued for many years and appears to have escalated during 1974.
According to Amnesty International, "In 1974, the tensions created by the
resistance of whites to desegregation resulted in frequent clashes in
which the Ku Klux Klan, the white supremacist organization, played a
leading role." The Friday night football games became a scene of frequent
fights between the white and Black students of Destrehan High school. On
the evening of October 4, one such fight broke out between Black and white
students at the football game. The fight didn't end that night. When
Destrehan High School opened the following Monday (October 7), lunchtime
fights between Blacks and whites continued, and several people including a
teacher were stabbed. Later at Gary's trial, Major Charles Faucheux of the
Destrehan Sheriff's Department testified that he watched as "one of the
Black studentsran to the highway and probably about fifty white students
chased after him." The principal ordered Destehan High School closed and
the Black students evacuated.
Gary Tyler, who was a sophomore at the time, was suspended by the school's
assistant principal that morning, though he says that he wasn't involved
in the fighting, and was sent home. Fatefully for Gary, he was picked up
while hitchhiking home by Destrehan Deputy Sheriff V.J. St. Pierre (who
also happened to be Timothy Weber's cousin), who searched him, found
nothing, and took him back to Destrehan High just as Black students were
being evacuated from campus. Gary hopped on to Bus 91, along with 65 other
Black students, as it began to pull out of campus. Bus 91 was immediately
besieged by a white mob of 200 students (and by some accounts,
non-students and parents) throwing rocks, bottles, and screaming racist
epithets. Gary's brother Terry, who was also on Bus 91, described the
terrifying scene years later to journalist Adam Nossiter. "They were on
the attack, man. It was panic," Terry said. It was as if "you be out on a
boat, and the boat's sinking." Suddenly, one student on the bus looked out
the window and screamed, "Look at that white boy with that gun." Seconds
later the Black students hit the floor of the bus after hearing a popping
sound, believing that someone was shooting at them. Outside the bus
Timothy Weber fell to the ground wounded. Deputy St. Pierre rushed him to
the hospital, where he later died from a gunshot wound.
The police stopped the bus, according to Patricia Files, another Black
student, stormed onto it, and went on a "rampage." They "started treating
us like animals." Then the police ordered all the Black students off the
bus and searched them. It should be emphasized that no one from the white
mob was stopped or searched by the police for weapons. Police searched all
the Black students on the bus and didn't find a gun. 3 deputies searched
the bus several times and, again, no gun was found. Then one of the
sheriff's deputies began to harass Gary Tyler's cousin Ike Randall about
why he was wearing a .22-caliber bullet on a chain. Gary said that there
wasn't anything wrong with that, and was arrested for "disturbing the
peace." He was placed in a police car and taken to the local substation of
the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Department. Despite the fact that no gun
was found on any Black student riding on Bus 91, and no weapon was found
on the bus, all of the Black students were loaded back onto the bus and
taken to the same sheriff's substation. This was the beginning of Gary
Tyler's long nightmare. Within days of the death of Timothy Weber, a young
David Duke, a rising star in Klan and neo-Nazi politics in the United
States, arrived in Destrehan with what he called "security teams" to
protect the white residents from "black savages" and "murderers." He also
laid a wreath at a memorial for Timothy Weber. This was the beginning of
David Duke's sometimes peripheral but always nefarious role in the
persecution of Gary Tyler.
A legal lynching
The system worked fine. This is the prototypical Southern legal lynching.
Soon after arriving in the police station, the threats and the beatings
began. According to Gary, St. Pierre returned to the police station and
screamed, "I'm getting the motherfucker that did it." A deputy handed St.
Pierre a blackjack and he started beating Gary while another deputy joined
in and began repeatedly kicking Gary in the back and legs. They kept
beating him and asking him who killed Weber. Gary told them he didn't
know. Yet, St. Pierre kept at it, "Nigger, you're going to tell me
something." Another sheriff's deputy entered the room and warned them that
people downstairs could hear Gary's screams. One of those people was
Gary's mother, Juanita, who came to the station after hearing about the
terrifying events at the high school and learning that her sons had been
taken there. After all the other students had been released except Gary,
she went into the station to look for him. "I could hear the sounds of the
beatings," she recounted in a 1990 interview. "It was like a smothered
holler. The sounds of a person hollering. Sounds of licks. Bam, pow." When
she saw Gary later, the aftereffects of the beatings were clear. "He was
The cops weren't able to beat a confession out of Gary, but others began
to crack under pressure. The first was Natalie Blanks. She would
eventually become the key prosecution witness against Gary. She was also
his unhappy ex-girlfriend. Gary's arrest for murder was based on her
statements to the police. Blanks was a young woman with a lot of emotional
problems who had been undergoing treatment at a local mental health clinic
for several years.
She also had a history of making false police reports, including one that
she was kidnapped, a claim that was investigated by none other than Deputy
Sheriff St. Pierre. Another Black student on Bus 91 got a visit from the
police that night. Larry Dabney shared the same bus seat with Gary Tyler.
"It was the scariest thing that ever happened to me," he said in his
affidavit. "They didn't even ask me what I saw. They told me flat out that
I was going to be their witness. They started telling me what my statement
was going to be. They told me I was going to testify that I saw Gary with
a gun right after I heard the shot, and that a few minutes later hide it
in a slit in the seat. That was not true. I didn't see Gary or anybody
else in that bus with a gun."
Where did the gun that police claimed killed Timothy Weber come from? How
did they find it? After all, the police searched the bus for 3 hours after
the shooting and found nothing. Natalie Banks identified where Gary was
sitting and the police removed the seat from the bus and, again, found
nothing. Later, the police said they "discovered" the gun-a .45 caliber
automatic-stuffed inside the seat that Gary was sitting on. According to
Amy Singer, "A photograph of the seat taken before they removed the gun
shows an obvious bulge." The gun had no fingerprints on it and was later
identified as stolen from a firing range that was used by St Charles
Parish Sheriff's deputies. What tied Gary to the gun? Gary wore gloves to
school that day and they were confiscated by the police after his arrest
and sent to the Southeastern Louisiana Regional Criminalistics Laboratory
for testing. The gloves were apparently misplaced for several weeks before
the head of the lab, Herman Parrish, finally claimed that he tested them
and found gunpowder residue on them. No independent testing was done
because all the alleged residue was used up by Parrish. In 1976, Parrish
resigned from his position at the crime lab after he was accused of lying
about test results in another case. The bullet that police claimed killed
Timothy Weber was never even tested to see if it ever passed through a
human body. Everything points to the likelihood that the police fabricated
the gun evidence against GaryTyler.
Planted evidence, coerced testimony, and faked test results; all that was
needed was a compliant judge and jury, and the prosecutors certainly got
them. The presiding judge at Gary's trial was Judge Ruche Marino, who was
identified by some press accounts of the time as being a former member of
the White Citizens Council of Louisiana. In a region that is 25 % African
American, the trial impaneled an all-white jury. Gary Tyler's inept
defense attorney, Jack Williams, gave incalculable help to the
His total pretrial preparation consisted of meeting Gary once or twice and
reading the grand jury transcripts. But this was only the beginning of his
blunders and missteps; his general incompetence would plague Gary for
years to come.
Judge Marino was consistently biased in favor of the prosecution. He even
instructed the jury that they could presume Gary guilty before their
deliberations. Gary's trial lasted five days and the jury deliberation 3
hours before he was found guilty of 1st-degree murder, in November 1975.
Under Louisiana law at the time, this was an automatic death sentence. His
date of execution was set for May 1, 1976. At seventeen, he was the
youngest person on death row in the United States.
Free Gary Tyler
Amnesty International believes that Gary Tyler was denied a fair trial and
that racial prejudice played a major part in his prosecution. The racial
and political context in which the offence and prosecution took place
brings the case under Article 1(b) of Amnesty International's statute, by
which the organization seeks a fair trial for political prisoners.
-Amnesty International, 1994.
Soon after Gary's arrest, the Tyler family, led by his mother Juanita,
threw themselves into organizing a campaign to stop his legal lynching.
They received the crucial help of veteran Louisiana Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activist and draft resister Walter Collins,
who helped set up a New Orleans-based Gary Tyler Defense Committee.
Collins and the Tyler family concentrated on getting Gary's supporters to
fill the court room during the trial, not only to show the judge and
prosecutor community support for Gary but also to counter the influence of
the KKK, who rallied outside for Gary's conviction. After an execution
date was set for Gary, there was an urgent need to turn the Free Gary
Tyler Campaign into a national effort. The campaign got a boost when
Natalie Blanks recanted her testimony, charging that the police had
coerced her into falsely testifying.
Gary's new attorney, Jack Peebles, petitioned the court for a hearing to
allow for the new evidence to be heard. Unfortunately, this meant going
back to the very same Judge Ruche Marino. True to form, Marino ignored
Blanks' recantation and allowed Gary's conviction to stand.
However, Blanks' bombshell revelations, along with the obvious
irregularities of the trial, provided more than enough of a basis for a
national campaign, despite the fact that the national media mostly ignored
the Tyler case. The New York Times, for example, ran its first article on
the Tyler case in late March 1976, six weeks before his scheduled
One of the groups that most enthusiastically took up Gary's case was the
Red Tide, the youth group of the International Socialists. The Red Tide
was a racially mixed, socialist organization that organized around high
schools in Detroit, a city experiencing the same kind of violent
opposition to school integration that had resulted in the persecution of
Gary Tyler. For many of the Red Tiders, Gary Tyler became a deeply
personal symbol of political persecution. In late April 1976, Gary's
lawyers won him his 1st victory.
His execution was postponed, pending the outcome of his appeals in the
Louisiana state courts. Meanwhile, Free Gary Tyler committees were being
formed across the country. Juanita Tyler and Walter Collins spoke before a
packed meeting of 350 people on June 13, 1976, demanding Gary's freedom in
Detroit. The late civil rights activist Rosa Parks was the main speaker
and campaigned on Gary's behalf. She was later joined by Reuben
"Hurricane" Carter, the former boxing champion who spent a decade in
prison for a crime he didn't commit. The campaign to free Gary peaked
during the latter half of 1976, when over 1,500 marched through New
Orleans on July 24, and in November, when petitions with more than 92,000
signatures demanding Gary's freedom were delivered to Louisiana Governor
Edwin Edwards. Even the American Federation of Teachers, which had a very
mixed record on the issue of racism in the public schools, passed a
resolution in support of Gary Tyler. In July 1976, while Gary's state
court appeals were still pending, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the
Louisiana death penalty was unconstitutional. Gary, along with everyone
else on Louisiana's death row, was spared.
While all of this was going on, Gary's tormentors turned their attention
to harassing members of the Tyler family and campaign supporters. Gary's
mother and father were fired from their jobs. On March 26, 1976, white
"nightriders" (Klan supporters if not outright Klansmen) shot and killed
Richard Dunn, a young Black man returning from a fundraising dance for
Gary Tyler at Southern University in New Orleans. (The gunman was later
captured and served ten years in prison.) Klansmen in full-dress uniforms
drove openly through the Tylers' hometown of St. Rose, while others, out
of uniform, stalked members the Tyler family around their community. While
there is no hard evidence that David Duke directed these activities, one
cannot help but notice that these activities bore a striking resemblance
to the "security" measures that he was calling for at the time. Gary's
brother Terry and Donald Files, an important defense witness, were
arrested on charges of burglary. The alleged burglary happened while Terry
was in Detroit speaking on his brother's behalf at a public rally on May
Judge Marino set a $5,000 bond for each. In June 1976, Marino once again
held another of Gary's brothers, Steven, on $2,700 bond for a charge of
"disturbing the police." On January 27, 1977, the police invaded Mrs.
Tyler's home at gunpoint, arrested one of her son's for robbery, and
released him later without charging him. Despite the constant harassment
and death threats, the Tyler family and the campaign persevered. Even at
his high school, Gary's classmates (both Black and white) organized the
Gary Tyler Freedom Fighters.
The year 1977 was an important turning point in Gary's case-unfortunately
for the worse. On January 24, 1977, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld
Gary's conviction. Short of a major breakthrough in the case, Gary was
looking at years in prison. During the course of the year, the national
campaign began to wane. Once the death sentence was lifted from Gary's
head, it became difficult to sustain the campaign.
The initial urgency to save him from the electric chair was gone, and the
campaign was ill prepared for what was going to be a long effort after the
Louisiana Supreme Court upheld his conviction. This was exacerbated by the
decline of the Left in the United States, in particular, the 2
organizations whose members had been the most committed to Gary's campaign
across the country.
Gary's lawyer, Jack Peebles, continued the legal fight, filing a petition
in 1978 for "biased instruction" by Judge Marino during Gary's trial with
the Federal Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In 1980, the court
ruled in Gary's favor. It seemed that finally Gary would get some justice.
However, the prosecutors appealed the decision. They were again helped by
Gary's 1st lawyer Jack Williams, who couldn't remember why he hadn't
objected to Marino's biased instructions at the trial. As a result the
court didn't order a new trial. "It is a shocking thing there is someone
in prison in this country for whom the courts have said, 'Your trial was
fundamentally unfair, you've been denied the presumption of innocence, but
we won't give you a fair trial because your lawyer can't remember why he
didn't object,'" Mary Howell declared in 1987. Since the late 1980s, Gary
has made several efforts to get paroled, but in each case they fell victim
to Louisiana's racial politics. The most serious effort came in 1989-90,
when the pardon board voted 3 to 2 to recommend that Gary's sentence be
commuted from life to 60 years, with eligibility for parole after serving
twenty years. This was forwarded to then Democratic Louisiana Buddy
Roemer, who rejected the pardon board's recommendations. Facing a serious
fight for the governor's office from David Duke-Klansman now turned
Republican, who garnered hundreds of thousands of votes in his campaigns
for Louisiana governor and U.S. senator on a thinly disguised racist
program-Roemer didn't want to be outflanked on the right.
The most serious effort came in 1989-90, when the pardon board voted 3 to
2 to recommend that Gary's sentence be commuted from life to 60 years,
with eligibility for parole after serving twenty years. This was forwarded
to then Louisiana governor, Democrat Buddy Roemer, who rejected the pardon
board's recommendations despite receiving petitions with 12,000 signatures
calling for Gary's pardon . Why did Roemer reject a pardon for Gary? One
can speculate that Roemer expected to face David Duke in his upcoming bid
for reelection in 1991-Klansman turned Republican, who garnered hundreds
of thousands of votes in his 1990 campaign for U.S. senator on an openly
racist program. Despite his effort to outflank Duke, Roemer was easily
defeated in a 3-way race. Duke would later be defeated by the notoriously
corrupt Democratic candidate and former governor, Edwin Edwards.
3 decades on
I emphatically and unequivocally maintain my innocence as I did in 1974
and hope that one day justice will eventually prevail in this matter.
I just wish for the day he could be home. It's been so long. -Juanita
Tyler, Gary's mother, May 24, 2006.
For the past 3 decades, Gary Tyler has been incarcerated at the Louisiana
State Penitentiary at Angola. The 18,000-acre penitentiary, nick-named
"the farm," is the largest maximum security prison in the country, housing
5,000 men. The Angola prison population is 75 % Black, and 85 % of those
sentenced there will probably die there. Angola is built on a former slave
plantation and has been running continuously since the end of the Civil
War. Along with other infamous prisons in the South (like Mississippi's
Parchman Farm), "it is hard not to seethe entire penal system simply as
revenge against Blacks for the South's defeat in the Civil War." Even to
this day, slavery casts a long shadow over the Southern penal system,
especially Louisiana's. Louisiana has the highest rate of incarceration in
the country. For every 100,000 residents of the state, 816 are sentenced
prisoners. Blacks make up 32 % of Louisiana's population, but they
constitute 72 % of the state's prison population.
While the life of prisoners inside of Angola is little better than
slavery. Gary, for example, spent many years in solitary confinement
because he refused to pick cotton for 3 cents an hour.
How is it possible that, given all the evidence of his innocence and the
blatantly racist nature of his frame-up, Gary Tyler is still in prison?
Gary's case takes us straight into the heart of darkness of the Louisiana
criminal justice system. Powerful political forces have conspired to keep
him behind bars. Both racism and political persecution have played their
part. In 1990, the Louisiana attorney general argued against a pardon for
Tyler, because he has "demanded that he be allowed to correspond with
socialist and communist publications like the Socialist Worker." Gary
Tyler is a political prisoner and nothing less than a serious fight by
those who are outraged and want to support him will win Gary his freedom.
There has been a great reversal in the rights of death row prisoners.
According to author David Lindorff, the Supreme Court, and the Clinton
administration's 1995 Effective Death Penalty Act have combined to make it
almost impossible to appeal cases based upon new evidence. Any appellate
defense lawyer will tell you that in both capital and non-capital cases,
the highest court, and the appeals courts, too, generally only will grant
new trials where there has been a procedural error. They don't give a damn
about new evidence, recanted witnesses, etc.
Those kinds of things, that actually prove innocence or corrupted trials,
have to be beyond overwhelming to win a new trial.
The draconian character of the legal system in capital cases has only
gotten more pronounced since the so-called war on terror under George W.
Yet the last decade has also seen a sea change in public attitudes towards
the criminal justice system. Hundreds of innocent people have been
released from prison, after it was shown that they were innocent or
received unfair trials. But far too many remain in prison. "Don't forget
about Gary Tyler because there are thousands more like him," declared
Terry Tyler, Gary's older brother. Hurricane Katrina has ripped the mask
off of racism and class oppression in this country generally, and in
Louisiana in particular. While the tens of thousands of mostly Black,
working class and poor residents of New Orleans fight to return to their
homes and rebuild their shattered lives, they will continue to be
confronted by the forces of racism and class oppression that seek to turn
the city into a jazz and blues version of Disneyland. Louisiana's already
racist and corrupt judicial system will be increasingly put at the
disposal of creating this "new" New Orleans. In all of these upcoming
battles, the fight to free Gary Tyler should be part of them. Gary Tyler
should not be forgotten.
Thanks to Larry Bradshaw, Paul D'Amato, Michael Letwin, David Lindorff,
and the Tyler family for their help in writing this article.
Letters of support can be sent to:
Gary Tyler # 84156
Louisiana State Penitentiary----ASH-4
Angola, LA 70712
(source: Joe Allen, CounterPunch)
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