Justice for Arthur Tyler on Death Row
In March 1983, Sander Leach was shot and killed while he was selling produce from a van on Cleveland’s east side. Leroy Head and two of his friends, Anthony and Jeffrey Gillis, were brought in by police for questioning in connection with an unrelated shooting, for which they were believed to be witnesses. The police report documents that Leroy Head became nervous during questioning, and police asked his friends why. Anthony and Jeffrey Gillis told officers that Leroy Head had shot Mr. Leach. (Police report: “They both stated that Head came to there [sic] house right after the shooting and told them that he just kill [sic] the old man who sold produce on East 66th.”) Police then attempted to speak with Mr. Head about this murder, but he refused until after he had spoken with his mother, Barbara Head. Police brought her in to the station. After meeting with her son for less than five minutes, “she came out of the room crying and saying that he did it.” (Police report) Head then confessed to police that while Arthur Tyler was outside Mr. Leach’s van and unaware of what was happening, Mr. Leach had pulled his gun to ward off the robbery, and Head and Mr. Leach struggled and Head shot Mr. Leach. In his written confession at the time, Head stated “at the first shot I starting [sic] falling over towards him, and that’s when the gun went off a second time.” Arthur Tyler then voluntarily appeared at the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, and when asked, he said he was outside Mr. Leach’s van when Head shot Mr. Leach.
Both Arthur Tyler and Leroy Head were indicted for aggravated murder and aggravated robbery of Sander Leach. Each individual was identified as the principle offender, even though under Ohio law, only the individual who fired the fatal shot could be eligible for the death sentence.
After the indictment, Leroy Head again confessed, verbally and in writing, to being the killer in an interview with an investigator for Arthur Tyler’s lawyer. Only later that month did Head change his story, in a meeting involving his lawyer and the assistant county prosecutor. At that time, Head said that Arthur Tyler had shot Sander Leach. Head then pled guilty to aggravated murder and robbery, but without a capital specification, removing his risk for execution. Head testified at Arthur Tyler’s trial, having been told immediately before his testimony by the prosecutor that the death penalty was in play. In July 1983, a jury found Arthur Tyler guilty of capital murder, based heavily on Leroy Head’s testimony that Arthur Tyler had pulled the trigger. In August, the jury recommended Tyler be executed. Head was sentenced to twenty years to life for aggravated murder, and sentenced for aggravated robbery and a firearms specification.
In December 1984, Tyler’s conviction was reversed and a new trial ordered based on his attorney’s incompetence. He was retried in 1985. At that time, evidence that supported Head’s original confession was withheld from the defense. In the second trial, Head initially claimed he could not recall the events surrounding the shooting; the case was adjourned overnight, and the next morning, Head repeated his testimony from the first trial. Tyler was again convicted based on Head’s testimony. Subsequently, the charge against Head for firearms was dismissed, reducing his sentence by three years.
Once again in 1986, Head stated in writing that he and he alone had shot and killed Mr. Leach, and that Tyler was unaware of the event while it was taking place. In 1989, Head told two attorneys that he had lied when he testified at Tyler’s trial and that he (Head) had killed Mr. Leach. Head said that prosecutors at Tyler’s second trial had threatened him if he did not testify against Tyler, saying that he would be retried for capital murder (as the shooter), or sent to a less secure facility and identified as a snitch. Because Head had received a lesser charge in his own original trial, he could not receive the death penalty; however, he had not received immunity for his testimony. Head also confessed to the murder twice in 1991. In 2000 under deposition with Tyler’s attorney, Head pleaded protection under the fifth amendment and refused to testify.
Leroy Head was paroled on June 3, 2008, and is now living in the community. Arthur Tyler remains on death row.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
• Go to www.gopetition.com/petitions/investigate-the-case-of-arthur-tyler.html to sign a petition to reopen Arthur Tyler’s case. For more information on the case, go to the following websites: http://blogs.amnesty.org.uk/blogs_entry.asp?eid=1901 (Amnesty International), or www.torley.org/Arthur-Tyler/Arthur-Tyler or http://justiceforarthurtyler.blogspot.com/
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
• Write to the Ohio Attorney General: Richard Cordray, Attorney General of Ohio, State Office Tower, 30 East Broad Street, 17th Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215-3428, or call: (614) 466-4320. Request an investigation into the facts of the case, specifically withheld evidence and repeated confessions of the primary witness against Tyler. Request a response. Copy the letter to Governor Ted Strickland, Riffe Center, 3rd Floor, 77 High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215-3428.
• Send a card or note to Arthur Tyler 175-637, Ohio State Penitentiary, 878 Coltsville-Hubbard Road, Youngstown, Ohio
• Messages of support can be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
• Connect to the international community. Please write to protest this conviction and execution to US Embassy, 24 Grosvenor SquareLondon, W1A 1AE, United Kingdom.