Gary Tyler and his legal team, George H. Kendall and Corrine Irish from Squire Patton Boggs and New Orleans lawyers Mary Howell, Majeeda Snead and Emily Ratner, were honored at the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth’s annual “Healing & Hope” awards reception on November 15 in Washington DC.
The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth is a national coalition and clearinghouse that coordinates, develops and supports efforts to implement just alternatives to the extreme sentencing of America’s youth, with a focus on abolishing life-without-parole sentences for all youth.
In April 2016, Honoree Gary Tyler, who had been incarcerated since he was 16, was released from Angola prison pursuant to a settlement in this nearly 42-year-old case. Mr. Tyler was convicted of first degree murder for the 1974 slaying of a fellow Destrehan High School student amid rising racial tensions surrounding school integration in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana.
Although then a juvenile, Mr. Tyler was charged in adult court for first degree murder, a capital offense. An all-white jury convicted him and imposed the death penalty. His death sentence was later reduced to a life sentence when Louisiana’s mandatory death penalty statute was declared unconstitutional in 1976. After spending nearly eight years in solitary confinement, Mr. Tyler was moved to general population where he would spend more than thirty years. During these three decades in Angola, Mr. Tyler was a volunteer leader in the widely acclaimed Angola hospice program, caring for dying prisoners. He was the long-time president and creative force of Angola’s celebrated Drama Club, and has been an A-1 trustee at the prison for years.
Mr. Tyler earned the respect of corrections officials as well as other prisoners and was recognized for his mentoring and positive influence on young prisoners. Two high-ranking corrections officials – a former warden of Angola and a former assistant warden – among other prominent voices, unconditionally supported his immediate release. In addition to the corrections officials, affidavits were filed by civilians who worked closely with Mr. Tyler for years. Three Louisiana pardons boards had recommended Mr. Tyler’s release in the 1980s and 1990s.
You can read more about Mr. Tyler’s story on the Squire Patton Boggs website.