Mar 31, 2003
In one day, on July 23, l999, more than a tenth of the black population of Tulia, Texas were arrested by an undercover cop who claimed he had done a drug "sting." No whites were arrested.
The trials were swiftly carried out in this poor, rural Texas town. Twenty-two of the accused were sentenced to such prison terms as 60 years, 99 years, or 434 years.
The suspicious nature of the "sting" was revealed by those who managed to prove their innocence. One woman found bank records to prove that she had been in Oklahoma at the time the cop, Thomas Coleman, swore she had sold him drugs in Tulia. One man proved by time cards that he had been at work when Coleman said he was out selling drugs. One man pointed out that since he is short and bald, he could not be the tall black man with "bushy type hair" Coleman described in the arrest report.
The juries that quickly convicted the "stung" victims did not hear about this cop's past. They did not hear that his "evidence-gathering" violated all legal norms. They did not hear that the year before, his own boss had to arrest him on a warrant from his previous deputy job, where he was accused of stealing county gasoline. Nor did they hear, until this month, a different county sheriff say in the five years Coleman worked as a deputy there, "you just couldn't depend on what he told you." Such claims were also made in court by other Texas lawmen.
Here was a person known to go from one deputy job to another in rural Texas, known to be untruthful and untrustworthy, known to misuse his job for his own personal agenda – and he was not identified, he was not put on any sort of alert list, he was allowed to go on his lawbreaking way until he made the mistake of gaining national attention in this one outrageous bust.
Even then it has taken four years for the wheels of so-called justice to grind. And instead of being immediately freed, nine of the victims are still kept in jail, waiting for the wheels to grind some more!
If this is supposed to be a system of justice, why do the injustices just keep on coming?