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Man Released from US Prison After 41 Years of Unconstitutional Sentence

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A Louisiana man is free after serving more than 41 years of an unconstitutional life sentence for the slaying of a white teenager during a violent confrontation over racial integration in the 70s.

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Gary Tyler left Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison on Friday after spending 41 years there including eight in solitary confinement. His high-profile case ended when the St. Charles Parish district attorney's office vacated his conviction, and Tyler agreed to enter a plea deal to manslaughter receiving the maximum 21-year sentence. 

Since he already served more than half that sentence, he was released.  

Tyler’s time in Angola began when he was a teenager at a high school adjusting to racial integration.

On Oct. 7, 1974, Tyler was aboard a bus with other black students as it was pulling away from Destrehan High School in southern Louisiana. As it passed St. Charles Parish, a crowd of 100 to 200 white students and some adults yelled racial slurs toward the bus. Some threw rocks and bottles. At one point, gunfire rang out and 13-year-old Thomas Weber was shot. He later died in a hospital.

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Police later found a gun tucked in one of the seats on the bus.

Tyler was arrested and sentenced to death. In 1976, his sentence was reduced to life after the state deemed mandatory death penalties unconstitutional. In the next two decades, the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Paroles reduced his sentence three times.  

In 2012, life without parole for juvenile offenders was also deemed unconstitutional. Earlier this year, a court decided the ruling should be retroactive paving the way for Tyler’s attorneys to reach the guilty plea.

"I accept responsibility for my role in this,” Tyler said in court Friday. “I ask for prayers for the Weber family and for my family, and for healing in the days and weeks to come.”

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