Freed Gary Tyler
Gary Tyler is free after 41 years in Angola prison. In 1974 he was 16, in a school bus attacked by some 200 furious whites raging against school desegregation. A shot was fired, a 13-year old white student was killed, and Tyler was the police pick for the shooter. No gun was found when the bus and the students in the bus, including Tyler, were searched; a gun, without fingerprints, was conveniently found in the bus hours later. The bus driver said there was no gun on the bus when it was first searched, and the shot came from outside the bus; the crowd wasn’t searched. The gun — which had been stolen from a firing range used by sheriff’s deputies — later disappeared from evidence. Four young “witnesses” at the trial later recanted their testimony and said the police forced them to lie. No evidence, sentenced to death.
There was a nationwide campaign for Tyler’s release in the 1970s. You can read his story here, and also in Democracy Now’s interview with Tyler’s mother and sister and the NY Times’ Bob Herbert, who had detailed the frame-up in a series of columns (“A Death in Destrahan” and “Gary Tyler’s Lost Decades”). The AP story on his release is “objective reporting,” and so doesn’t make clear the trial was “fundamentally unfair” (US Court of Appeals) and that Tyler maintained his innocence until he accepted a guilty plea in exchange for his release. The prison warden and three appeals boards recommended him for pardon; he did exemplary work as a prisoner in the hospice program and as president of the drama club. We can contribute to the “Back-to-Life Reentry Fund” of the Liberty Hill Foundation, info at http://freegarytyler.com/
How Ossian Sweet stood his ground, defended by Clarence Darrow
Tyler was innocent, but suppose he had fired the shot while the bus was under attack. That would look to us a lot like a shot fired in self-defense … and that thought takes me to 1925 Detroit. A black doctor, Ossian Sweet, moved into a white neighborhood, expecting trouble; family and friends armed themselves to defend the house. When hundreds in a maddened white mob attacked the house, shots were fired into the mob from the second floor, and one man was killed, another wounded. Naturally it was the Sweets and their friends who were arrested and put on trial. (more…)