Naked City

Beyond City Limits

On April 1, a Swisher Co. judge recommended that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacate the convictions of 38 Tulia residents convicted in the town's now-infamous 1999 drug busts. The appeals court last month ordered an evidentiary hearing for four of the defendants who are still in jail, to determine if the men were convicted based entirely on the word of freelance cop Tom Coleman, whose integrity and credibility have come under intense scrutiny since the operation went down. He said he made drug buys from the Tulia residents over a period of 18 months, but failed to provide any corroborating evidence for his testimony -- in many cases Coleman said he had written on his leg important notes about the dates and times of his alleged drug buys. The sentences of six other Tulia defendants have already been overturned. -- J.S.

On March 26, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that the Washington state Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts program does not violate the Fifth Amendment -- a decision that could resolve a similar suit against the Texas IOLTA program, currently pending before the high court. IOLTA programs provide money for civil legal aid for the poor and elderly and for legal education, among other programs; they work by mandating that attorneys place certain client funds into pooled, interest-bearing accounts. The principal is returned to the client; the accrued interest goes to legal-aid services. In Texas the plan is administered by the nonprofit Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation. In 2001, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Texas' IOLTA program unconstitutional. Richard Tate, TEAJF's board chair, believes last week's decision in the Washington state case "will lend greater support" to the Texas case and that TEAJF is looking forward "with great optimism" to the court's disposition of its case. Texas IOLTA annually provides millions of dollars in legal aid across the state and is the state's second-largest source of funding for legal assistance for the poor. -- J.S.

If you can't take the belligerent idiocy of right-wing talk radio, aim your computer at

www.ieamericaradio.com

-- the i.e. America Radio Network features radio hosts bashing conservatives for a change. There is currently no Austin affiliate for the Detroit-based network, but it can be heard online or on Sirius Satellite at Sirius Left, Channel 145. -- L.N.

According to a two-year study released March 14 by UT journalism professor Mercedes Lynn de Uriarte, a 25-year effort by the American Society of Newspaper Editors to diversify newsrooms and news content has fallen short due to a lack of strategic planning by news media management and a failure by journalism schools to lay a foundation for such diversity. The study, "Diversity Disconnects: From Classroom to Newsroom," was funded by the Ford Foundation and will be available online at www.utexas.edu in late April. -- L.N.

New on the media landscape: Texas Media Watch, a Web site that promises "A Balanced View of the Texas Press." While TMW does at least strive for some cosmetic appearances of balance -- it offers links to the conservative Media Research Center and the liberal Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and hosts online debates between the likes of Texans for Public Justice and the Texas Association of Business -- it doesn't take long to see the balance is a bit, well, out of balance. A bit of sniffing around the site -- directed by former San Antonio Express-News writer Sherry Sylvester -- reveals that it is a project of the Lone Star Foundation, an Austin-based conservative-libertarian think tank. Among the site's offerings are sections named "Bias Indicators" (self-explanatory) and "Line Count," a sort of "Harper's Index" for Texas newspapers. Naked City would like to offer a few additions to those sections: We think that, when a source insists it is completely free of bias and offers "a balanced view," this is itself a good Bias Indicator. As for Line Count? Number of times (as of press time) that Line Count whines about conservatives being treated unfairly: 13. Number of times it mentions that all five major Texas papers are owned by large, extremely prosperous corporations that aren't exactly hotbeds of socialism: 0. -- L.N.

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