© 2007 The Justice Institute -- (Justice Denied is a trade name of The Justice Institute)

Arthur Tyler Is Awaiting Execution -- When The Actual Murderer Is Known And Being Protected By Ohio Law Enforcement

By Rick Kerger, Esq.*

I have handled five death penalty habeas matters. Only in one has the evidence of a client’s innocence been overwhelming, and that client is Arthur Tyler. He now stands literally at the door of the death chamber and unless people act, an innocent man will be killed by the State.

The circumstances of the case are as follows:

On March 12, 1983, Sander Leach was killed in the van from which he was selling vegetables on Cleveland’s east side. In 1985, Tyler was convicted of shooting and killing Mr. Leach and was sentenced to death.

The key witness in that case was and remains today Leroy Head. There is no doubt that Leroy Head was involved in the events which led to the death of Mr. Leach. The circumstances are such that only the victim, Head and Tyler could know what happened on March 12, 1983.

A few days after Leach’s murder, the police brought Leroy Head and two of his friends into the police station to question them concerning another murder. The police believed the individuals were witnesses to the other murder, as opposed to suspects. During the questioning, Head began to look nervous. The police asked his friends why and they told the two officers that Head had shot Mr. Leach. “In these statements 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.” (This statement appears in a police report.)

Confronted with his friends’ statements, Head asked to speak with his mother. The police transported her to the station to speak with her son. After meeting with him for “approx (sic) 3 minutes, she came out of the room crying and saying that he did it.” This statement appears in a police report.

Head then confessed to the police that while Tyler was outside Mr. Leach’s van, unaware of what was taking place inside, Head had gotten into a struggle with Leach and then shot him. Head reduced his oral confession to writing: “At the first shot I starting (sic) falling over towards him, and that’s when the gun went off a second time.” (Police report.)

Within ten days of his first confession, Head confessed again, this time to an investigator working for Arthur Tyler’s lawyer. Head again wrote out a statement admitting to having shot and killed Sander Leach while Tyler was outside the van: “I grabbed (the gun) and it went off – the old man fell back and I fell on top of him – the gun went off again.” (Investigator’s report.)

Then on May 27th after Head, now with his own court-appointed legal counsel, met with the prosecutor. Head changed his statement and made Arthur Tyler the shooter. This was the version Head gave during his testimony at Tyler’s trial. But these were not the last statements given by Head concerning the killing. In post-conviction proceedings, affidavits were obtained from Head which stated as follows:

* April 27, 1986 – Head stated, in his own handwriting, that he and he alone had shot Leach. “I shot and killed him” and Tyler was unaware that the crime was taking place.
* May 16, 1989 – Head tells lawyers for Arthur Tyler that he had lied when he testified that Tyler had killed Leach. Head said the prosecutors told him that if he did not testify he would be tried for capital murder, sent to a less secure prison, with the prosecutor making sure the other inmates knew he was a snitch. (Lawyer note.)
* July 27, 1991 – Head confirmed in an affidavit that he, not Arthur Tyler, killed Leach. “Leach pulled a gun out and he was shot while we scuffled.”

During the state post-conviction process, it developed that Head had confessed to still another friend. On April 25, 1991, Luther Aldridge, a half-brother of Head’s friend, Anthony Gillis, stated in an affidavit that he had gone to Gillis’s house around 6:00 p.m. on the day of the homicide. Head was present and told Aldridge that “he had robbed and shot the vender.” (Aldridge Affidavit.) Aldridge later encountered Head in prison and asked him why he was letting Tyler remain on Death Row. Head told Aldridge that he was going to confess to the crime. (Aldridge Affidavit.)
During proceedings in federal habeas corpus, Tyler was granted permission to take the deposition of Leroy Head. But Head refused to testify, citing his rights to avoid self-incrimination. A lawyer was appointed to represent Head. The deposition was rescheduled and again Head invoked his rights under the Fifth Amendment. Tyler’s counsel asked that the State grant immunity to Head so that his testimony could be obtained. The request was refused. The Court sustained Head’s assertion of his right not to testify and refused to grant the petition for habeas corpus.

On September 20, 2005, I wrote to the Attorney General’s office asking that it take steps to assure that immunity be extended. That request has been greeted with silence.

Having obtained the side of the story they wished, the State is now effectively sealing the lips of the only witness who can establish Tyler’s innocence and avoid the execution of an innocent man. Keep in mind: There can be no valid assertion of the Fifth Amendment by Head unless he is going to change his testimony. If he testifies as he did at trial, the situation would be that the shooter was Arthur Tyler and there would neither be a basis for any criminal proceedings against Head for murder or for perjury. It would only be that if, under oath, Head changed his story back to his original version where he was the shooter that he would be potentially exposed to criminal charges. Were he to do that, Tyler’s actual innocence would furnish a basis to avoid his execution.

No one has ever offered a reasonable basis for Head’s recantation of his confessions, other than the fact that the prosecutor told him at last minute that if he did not point the finger at Tyler, they would seek the death penalty for him. The police theory was that since Tyler was older, he was the one who directed their activities and was the shooter.

The circumstances of the case were simple and not at all what the police believed them to be. Arthur did not know Head. They met at a friend’s house. They came up with the idea of robbing a nearby meat market, one which regrettably was also next to the van from which Mr. Leach sold his vegetables.

The plan was that Arthur, who knew the owners of the meat market, would go in and present a check to be signed. The check was in a sufficiently large amount that they felt the owners would have to open the safe, at which point Head was to swing into the room with a pistol and they would “clean out” the safe.

With Head outside, Arthur went in, only to find that the two owners were both absent leaving the business in the control of someone who was unable to open the safe. While Arthur was in the market trying to figure out what to do next, Head saw the old man and went over to rob him. As Arthur was leaving the market, he heard a shot coming from the van and found that Head had killed Mr. Leach. They both then ran.

Reflect on the day of Head’s arrest. He is surprised by the police and taken to the station. He becomes nervous. He asks that his mother be allowed to speak with him. She is brought to the station. In a few minutes, she leaves the interview room in tears stating that “he did it.” Why would Head lie to his mother about being the shooter?

Why did Arthur get convicted? I read the transcript and the answer is simple – he chose to testify. At the time he was a smart aleck, streetwise young Black man and the testimony he gave, while not inculpatory was cocky and offensive, to be frank. He had a criminal record, but not for violent crimes. He was a con man. He hustled pool. But he did not shoot or assault people.

He needs help. Right now the State is sealing the lips of the only individual who could save him. Arthur has appealed his case to the Supreme Court and is likely to be without any further legal redress. Ohio’s Governor can commute this sentence. Arthur needs your help. Without it, Ohio will execute an innocent man later this year.

Sign a petition to reopen Arthur Tyler's case:

Wendy Alsford and Karen Torley are coordinating the campaign to stop Arthur Tyler’s execution. They can be emailed at, justiceforarthurtyler@gmail.com
For more information about Arthur Tyler’s case see the following websites:



* Rick Kerger is a Toledo, Ohio criminal attorney.