Naked City

After Tulia: State, Feds Act

Last week featured more fallout from the infamous 1999 Tulia drug busts, including a move by the federal government to review U.S. Dept. of Justice programs that feed the war on drugs.

On May 13, Gov. Rick Perry asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to review 38 remaining Tulia cases -- beginning with the cases of 13 people still jailed -- and recommend whether pardons or sentence commutations are in order. The next day, the Senate passed SB 1948 by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, which would set the Tulia 13 free on bond pending a decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals on whether the Tulia cases -- built solely on the testimony of rogue undercover cop Tom Coleman, who has himself now been indicted -- should be vacated and dismissed, as recommended by a state district judge and special prosecutor reviewing the cases.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is also heading into the Tulia fray. On May 7, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan -- later joined by Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and Charles Rangel, D-New York -- asked that the House Judiciary Committee investigate the Tulia scandal. According to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, the committee chair, GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, has agreed to review not only the Tulia cases themselves, but also the workings of a DOJ program that offers federal tax dollars to various state drug task forces, like the Panhandle Narcotics Task Force that hired Coleman. The Texas House has already passed legislation this session effectively prohibiting Gov. Perry from allocating these federal funds to multijurisdictional narcotics task forces, which have been implicated in numerous scandals besides the Tulia bust.

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