Arthur Tyler was a self-described “stupid kid” and “idiot” on the wrong path back in 1983.
Look at his file and you’ll find instances of breaking and entering, petty theft, trespassing and criminal damaging when he was a juvenile and robbery, grand theft and possession of criminal tools as a young adult.
Then came that day when an elderly man in his neighborhood who sold fresh produce out of his van as a community service was shot and killed, and Tyler ended up on Ohio’s death row.
He says he didn’t commit the crime. The other guy who confessed multiple times to pulling the trigger has served his sentence and is back on the street.
Prosecutors don’t agree, citing other evidence.
Regardless, earlier this month, after 31 years on death row, Gov. John Kasich commuted Tyler’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole, sending him into the general inmate population at the Trumbull Correctional Institution.
Do an online search and you’ll find ample reading material about Tyler and his case. He has supporters around the world advocating for his release. A lot of people are convinced of his innocence. I think he was pretty certain he’d be getting out of prison.
Instead, he’s learning to adjust to sharing a cell with another inmate and walking without shackles to the library.
If you had asked him about the death penalty 31 years ago, Tyler would have said he didn’t know what you were talking about.
“Until I got convicted, until I was facing this, I had no idea we even had a death penalty,” he said. “... I’d never been in prison. ... I’d been to jail, but I’d never been in prison. So I didn’t have no concept of what was around that. They said death row, and I said, what, they’re going to kill me? I had no idea I was going to spend 31 years of my life there ...”
After more than three decades in the system, Tyler, unsurprisingly, is not a proponent of capital punishment.
Though he said he doesn’t read newspapers, he’s aware of Dennis McGuire’s prolonged execution in Ohio earlier this year and the botched lethal injection that took place in recent weeks in Oklahoma.
“They need to get rid of it,” he said. “Our last execution was botched. Oklahoma just had a botched one. This ain’t justice. No way it’s justice. They actually murder people. They call murderers murderers, what do you call them? They’re murdering people, they’re suffocating them. They come up with drugs that they never even use on an animal. They’re just, they’re murdering us. ... They need to get rid of it. They need to stop this.”
I asked Tyler how he would respond to the family members and friends of murder victims who have died in brutal, painful fashion. Why should the perpetrators of such crimes continue to live?
“Who are you to judge a man with life and death?” he said. “Isn’t that God’s job? They’ve got places like this where they put people for the rest of their life. If you feel they’re that bad and you judge they’re that bad, put them in prison for the rest of their life. Why are you murdering them? It’s not OK. Somebody’s going to have to pay for it one day, because that’s murder. It’s outright murder.”