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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/1/16

Robert Scheer Interviews Gary Tyler, Wrongly Imprisoned for Decades

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Scheer: As the facts emerged, first of all, you were very poorly defended and the courts were critical of that eventually ...

Tyler: Right.

Scheer: You were tried as an adult, even though you were 16 and you got international attention of having been wrongfully imprisoned. You were on death row for two years.

Tyler: Yes.

Scheer: And got off death row and ended up, until this last April, being in Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana for 41 and half years. How did you get from being wrongfully accused, you're 16 years old, you're in this really rough prison and you're on death row for two years. Why aren't you crazy? Why weren't you destroyed by this?

Tyler: Many people ask me that question, a lot. Sometimes the answer that I give them, I guess it's not enough because many of them say that despite everything that I told them, that if they were in my situation that they would be stark mad and that they would hate the world. I guess, in a way, they are right about that, but you know, for some reason a human being, they are genetically built to endure the difficulties that we find ourselves going though.

I guess, at the time, when I was in prison, I was introduced to a culture that I never thought existed. I mean, not in my mind. I could never fathom that something like this existed, period. I was sent to a prison at a very young age and a prison that, at one time, had been declared the bloodiest prison in the United State. As a child, you know we heard a lot about it. We never thought -- well that was no concern of mine, because I'd never go to prison. Unfortunately, I wound up in prison. And not only on death row, but also there was an execution date set on me. May the 1st, 1976. That beared heavily on my mind.

I guess when I went to prison, I didn't know anybody. I'll never forget that when I went to death row, they had these doors that were slamming and prisoners shouting and hollering. It was like being introduced to an insane asylum, I guess.

When I was put on a tier, it was a short tier with 14 people. No, I take that back, there were 13 people on the tier. I was assigned cell eight. When I stepped across that threshold in that cell, that's when the cell door slammed behind me and at that time, it was one of the most weirdest sounds I ever heard. But it was like my fate had been sealed. That now my execution date was set and I was going to set there until that day come. And it was fast approaching.

Nonetheless, then on death row, I'd gotten to know some guys that at that time, they was considered the incorrigibles. The worst of the worst in prison. That the prison administrators feared and the kept them locked up in c-cell, in which case, close cell restriction. They kept these guys monitored. They thought the worst of these guys.

For some reason, these guys when they saw me come on that tier, as young as I was, in which case, I didn't know anybody, wasn't familiar with the culture of prison. What they did, they formed a bond around me; they took me in. We're talking about guys who was in prison for murdering other prisoners, who committed horrible crimes in prison. But, when they saw me, they saw their little brother, they saw their son, they saw their nephew, they even saw their neighbor's child, and they knew that no way in the world, physically, that I'd be able to survive this environment if they didn't step up to help me. And that's what they did. And I contribute that to those guys, because they were able to help me to survive and gather my footing while I was in prison. They gave me the best of themselves and I guess because they knew that their lives was over with and they saw hope within me.

Scheer: You had some people on the outside trying to help your case, right?

Tyler: Right, right. I had, you know, even after 41 and half years later, those very people ...

Scheer: Well, there's a guy here who teaches here at USC, Bill Blum, who's a former judge. He wrote an article about your case back in 1970.

Tyler: Yes.

Scheer: Advocating your case. And then I look back at the record and there were famous rock groups and others who had songs about you. Your case did get some attention and publicity.

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Robert Scheer is editor in chief of the progressive Internet site Truthdig. He has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. He conducted the famous Playboy magazine interview in which Jimmy (more...)

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