Free After 41 Years: Wrongfully convicted man shares his story in La Crosse

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – He served 41 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of murder. And still, Gary Tyler says he is not bitter.

When Gary Tyler shares his story, his audience hangs on every word. 

The Louisiana native was wrongfully convicted of killing a white classmate and sentenced to death when he was just 17 years old. “People want to know, how do you survive what happened to you,” says Tyler.  

His answer is hope. “Never give up. There is always someone out there who will hear you crying. Always gonna be someone out there who will come to your support. You gotta believe. Never stop believing,” explains Tyler.

Tyler survived 41 years locked up and says even if he could go back in time—and live as a free man he wouldn’t.  “It was meant for me. I went through my trials and tribulations. I feel like I survived those challenges. And I came out on the good side of things,” says Tyler.

Today the 64-year-old shares his story to encourage people to act when they witness injustice.  And to forgive others, regardless of whether they deserve your forgiveness.  “We don’t need to perpetuate hate, the hurt, and the anger of the people. We need to do what’s right for the people we need to start forgiving,” explains Tyler.

Since his release, Gary Tyler has not spoken with the investigators who helped wrongfully convict him. His message to those men is the same message he shares with everyone. “I’m okay. I love life. I believe that people have goodness in them. I’ve seen people change. And don’t give up on anyone,” says Tyler with a smile.

When Gary Tyler was close to losing hope, he says his mom kept him going.  She died four years before his release. But he believes she was with him when we walked out a free man and is still with him today. 

You can hear more of Gary Tyler’s story and message Thursday at 7 p.m. He will speak at Viterbo University’s San Damiano Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.