In 1992, my brother, my best friend, Tim, was sentenced to 2 life sentences without parole, under federal law for selling LSD.
He is nonviolent (doesn't even eat meat), didn't have or use weapons, and was just a 'Deadhead' following the Grateful Dead shows. He has been in jail since he was 23; he is 33 now and on his 11th year, with no light at the end of the tunnel.
Tim Tyler 99672-012
USP Lee County
PO Box 305
Jonesville, VA 24263
Through this website, he has gotten a lot of letters, and he has appreciated them all, but he has lost interest in writing. He doesn't enjoy it anymore since the "outside" seems so out of his reach. He never went to trial, and his 2255 appeal was denied because of a time limit. He had a "friend" help him file it. Do you think they actually read it? His only hope is a Presidential Clemency.
He is single and has never been married. My mom visits him from Florida twice a year. I live in Las Vegas and have only seen him twice in almost 10 years. He is my only sibling and my best friend.
This whole ordeal with the "war on drugs" has taken all the happiness out of my life. A lingering darkness. My mother is grief-stricken as is the rest of the family. We try to go on, but it's always there, this good guy who made poor choices, my brother, her son, wasting away. I keep increasing my Prozac dosage but it never goes away. Deaths are much easier to handle which is so, very sad. Something is wrong with our justice system. Terribly wrong.
Tim used to love the Grateful Dead and was in prison when Jerry Garcia died. He used to feed the Deadheads when they were hungry, for free. I was with him on some shows. If they didn't have money, he'd give them some fried dough with tomato sauce, and a soda. He would play his guitar and sing. Mostly Eagles, soft rock and folk type of music. He was lonely in this world. I think the Grateful Deadheads became his "family." We had a rough childhood. Tim in particular used to get picked up by his ears and have his head smashed against the wall by my stepfather. Tim took the abuse, I ran away. I think it caught up to him later. The deadheads lived in a different world. LSD to them was spiritual somehow. To each his own.
He had a public pretender, and they told him if he plead guilty, he would get maybe 20 years, so he plead guilty and they gave him double life, no parole. They "enhanced" his sentence using his priors in which adjudications were withheld. They were supposed to tell him that it was a minimum mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole before he plead guilty, but they did not. Like I said, a public pretender.
I don't condone drug use. I believe it is a personal choice, like tobacco and alcohol. I also believe that the punishment should fit the crime. If a murderer, with cruel intent, who takes another life can get out in 3-40 years, why should nonviolent drug offenders receive more than that?
A lot has happened during the past 11 years since his imprisonment like the invention of the Internet, family marriages, graduations, births and deaths. The following is a letter that I sent to my brother after my grandfather died in January 2000. If you can imagine reading it and being unable to cry, at least not in front of anyone (when is a prisoner ever alone), and not being able to drink about 5 shots of tequilla, like I did, just imagine what it might be like. This could so easily be your brother, sister, father, son or mother. I tried to give my brother a sense of closure that he could not otherwise have had. Some people in our prisons have nobody. This was our father's father.
My grandfather, Leonard V. Tyler, a veteran of WWII, and other wars, 79 years old, non-smoker, non-drinker with congestive heart failure.
Letter to my dad (dad in prison for possession of LSD -10 years for same case) and brother, Tim:
It's January 27, 2000. My grandfather died today. I want to write down my recollections of the past days' events to pass on to my brother and dad especially.
I have grampa's sweater with me on the bed at mom's house. The last sweater he wore. I have his chain around my neck, and his cane next to me which makes me feel closer to him. I can smell him on his sweater. There are stains on it, perhaps food. The smell reminds me of his little motel room we used to visit when Timmy and I were kids. I can still smell his skin on my hands. Jean (his lady friend) and I were running our fingers through his hair today.
He was funny yesterday. He was embarrassed about his catheter, and being seen in such bad shape. I cleared mucous from his nose yesterday while he winced. I know he is particular about the way he looks and I knew Jean would be there soon.
Yesterday he was so happy to see her. His nose was itchy a lot and we kept rubbing and scratching his face and nose to try to fix it for him. But it was his feeding tube down his nose that was bothering him. Jean was making him laugh. Jean asked if his bum was sore because he kept stretching and moving around. He shook his head yes. I massaged his legs and butt a little but I think it made him feel uncomfortable with his granddaughter doing it, so I stopped. We were talking to him and the nurse put his hearing aids back in. He made a funny face when I asked if he could hear me, like I was really loud and it shocked him, but he smiled.
Yesterday, after they took him off of the respirator, with the nurses there, I was trying to help him cough. I said, "Grandpa, all you have to worry about is coughing and breathing, and breathing is automatic, so just cough, and let me suck up the stuff with this dentist suction thing." I said, "give me a big hawker so we can clear your lungs." So he gave a few big hawkers and opened up so I could suck them up in the tube. I said, "good boy." He shrugged his shoulders and kind of laughed. His lips were chapped so I told the nurse and she put stuff on them.
I told him that Daddy and Timmy said hello, and that "they love you and wish they could be here." He nodded, understanding, and smiled, and a couple of tears came to his eyes. Mine too. He squeezed my hand.
He said that he had a headache. I had to move the oxygen mask over and put my head near his mouth to hear and read his lips because his voice was quiet. I told the nurse and she put some Tylenol liquid down his feeding tube. I was noticing how much his eyes looked like Daddy's when he was squinting to show headache pain. Usually when I saw him, he wore glasses that had a tint to them. He asked me if I was staying down for a while (Florida), and I said, "long enough to get you better and out of here so we can go to Nikki's (restaurant)."
Grampa always mentioned my Dad to Jean. That's all he talked about. Jean and I had become friends through all of this. I wish he could have seen his son and grandson one more time.
This morning I called the hospital and they said that Grandpa took a turn for the worst last night. I said I would wait for them to call me with the results of a test to show if he had indeed been having another heart attack.
It was the cardiologist who called back and said that Grandpa had had at least one or two heart attacks last night and this morning. He told me it is very serious and that the mortality rate for this was high do to his age and all. I hitchhiked to the hospital. I normally took the bus but they take a tour around the mall first. I ran upstairs and was hoping he was still alive. I wanted to be there for him.
Jean was there holding his hand and crying. The Dr. and nurse came in and said basically that 3 major arteries were blocked and there was nothing they could do because his heart muscles were dying with each heart attack and his heart was too weak and old for any surgery.
Jean and I rubbed his hair and forehead and he was so cold because he wasn't getting blood to parts of his body. Yesterday and the day before we were putting a cool towel to his forehead, because he was sweating, but today, he felt clammy, I put a hot towel on his head and neck and feet. I kept getting it more warm at the sink.
Within 10-20 minutes his heart monitor was blinking and an alarm went off. He was having another one. The nurse put ephedrine or something in his arm, and 20 seconds later, his heart was beating normally again. He had an oxygen mask on and was breathing on his own.
Late last night he told the Dr. that he did not want to be put on the ventilator again.
They gave him some mist treatment through the side of his oxygen mask to expand the bronchiole in the lungs to get more oxygen.
The chaplain came in and spoke with us and spoke to Grandpa in the ear that he could hear out of better (left). He read Psalms and sang Amazing Grace and Old Rugged Cross in his ear. It made Jean and I cry. He said that it would be nice if I told Grandpa that I would take care of Timmy and Dad and Jean, and that it is ok to let go. So I did. I said "Grandpa, I love you very much and we will miss you very much. Daddy will get out soon and we'll get Timmy out and we'll all be fine down here." I said, "Your body is tired and beat up and it's time to go with God." I said, "Follow the light. Trust me Grandpa. I love you." I said these sorts of things a couple of times.
After the chaplain left, the nurse checked his urine bag and said that his kidneys have shut down and that his whole body was shutting down. I turned the volume of the TV up so Grandpa would feel comforted by the sounds (the speakers were in the bed near his ears). His hearing aids weren't in anymore. They must've removed them when he was having a hard time last night.
His breathing was very shallow and labored. He was almost snoring. His eyes were closed all day. He was unconscious the whole day today.
The heart monitor went off again and they put some more medicine in his arm. His heart was beating again but his body was dying. We watched as his respirator monitor went from 14 breaths per minute to 0. His skin was yellow. During this time, we knew it was near so I told Jean to tell him to let go. So she said, through many tears, "let go Len. We will miss you very much but, it's time to go." I said, "God is calling you Grandpa. Follow the light." His heart was beating for about a minute after he stopped breathing, probably from the medication they gave him. It was hard to tell when he totally stopped breathing because he was only taking little puffs of air, until none.
Jean and I sat and hugged and cried for at least an hour in the room with Grandpa. He didn't look like Grandpa anymore. I guess because his soul left his body. He just looked like an old man then. The chaplain came back because we had him paged. We all said a prayer for Dad, Timmy and us. I felt relief that he wasn't going to be in pain anymore. I cut a lock of his hair from behind his head before we left to remember him by. I am glad God finally took him. I was praying for him not to be in pain anymore.
This is the verse the chaplain read to Grandpa before he died. Psalms 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters; He restoreth my soul. Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me
I called Milt (Dad's friend) and told him, he asked if I would take care of the arrangements and everything. I said yes. Everything was a blur from this point on. The 'details' lady asked me all sorts of questions. I couldn't concentrate and was shaking.
Jean and I went to Grampa's house and I sat outside for a while crying. Then we went inside and I just sat in his chair for a while, then on his couch, on his bed, I picked up his toothbrush, looked in his refrigerator and cabinets. I looked at all his pills. I remember just a couple weeks ago when Jerry and I were visiting, taking 2 of these same aspirin for my headache. I was missing Grandpa.
He had 3 little monkeys made of plastic that show see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil that I got from a shelf in his house and an hourglass about 2 inches long that I remember playing with as a kid at Evelyn's house.
I have 2 four-leaf clovers laminated that Grandpa gave me a while ago. I have a Christmas card from a month ago that he sent. I have a lock of his hair. I have the bible that the chaplain read from (I had brought it with me to the hospital). I have many fond memories of Grandpa. I will miss him dearly. I know Daddy and Timmy that you would have been there if you could. But at least you now have a vision of Grampa's final days.
If you would like more information on how to help Tim, please email me:
Peace and love from his sister, Carrie.
And many thanks to all of you who give of your time and money to end this senseless, no, idiotic war on drugs.
Editor's Note: Tim's father, Tim V. Tyler, died in prison. He was sentenced to 10 years for possession of LSD. He served 8 and was due for release September 2002.
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