Gettysburg Man Serving Life Sentence For Murdering A Witness Denied Compassionate Release

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Willie Tyler, age 70, formerly of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was denied compassionate release today by U.S. District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner.  Tyler is currently serving a life sentence for witness tampering by murder.

According to United States Attorney John C. Gurganus, Tyler participated in the brutal murder of a law enforcement confidential informant from the Carlisle area in 1992.  The victim was scheduled to testify in Cumberland County Court against David Tyler, the brother of the defendant, on the day of her murder.  Willie Tyler planned to murder the victim, along with four other individuals, who were convicted for their role in the murder in previous federal and state court proceedings.

Tyler was first tried in state court in 1994, and acquitted of the murder.  The case was then adopted for federal prosecution, and Tyler was convicted by a federal jury trial in 1996.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned Tyler’s conviction, and he was convicted again following a re-trial in 2000.  In 2013, the Third Circuit overturned the 2000 conviction in light of a change in the law and remanded the case to the district court for a new trial.  Tyler was then tried and convicted for the third time in July 2017.  The jury returned its verdict after only two hours of deliberation following a four-day trial.

In February 2018, the trial judge vacated the jury’s verdict, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions.  The government appealed, and in April 2020, the Third Circuit reversed the trial judge’s decision and remanded with instructions to reinstate the jury’s verdict and proceed to sentencing.  Tyler then petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review the Third Circuit’s decision, but the Court denied his petition in May 2021.  Tyler was sentenced to life in prison in June 2021.

Federal law permits federal prisoners to seek a sentence reduction and immediate release—commonly called compassionate release—if they can establish extraordinary and compelling reasons.  In today’s ruling, Judge Conner found that Tyler failed to make that showing.  Judge Conner also concluded that other factors did not support Tyler’s release, explaining that “Tyler is serving a congressionally mandated life sentence for his role in the brutal murder” of a witness.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and the Pennsylvania State Police with cooperation from the Carlisle Police Department.  The case was previously prosecuted by former Assistant United States Attorneys Gordon A. Zubrod and Chelsea Schinnour and Assistant United States Attorney Joseph J. Terz.  Assistant United States Attorney Carlo D. Marchioli handled the most recent litigation.

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