Naked City

Songs of Freedom in Tulia

Last week was filled with more news spawned by the infamous 1999 Tulia drug busts. On June 16, 12 of the remaining Tulia defendants were finally released from jail on bond, the result of a bill authored by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, sponsored by Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry. The law allows 13 of the 46 original Tulia defendants to be freed pending a decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals on whether the cases, built solely on the testimony of rogue undercover cop Tom Coleman, should be vacated and dismissed -- as a Swisher Co. judge and a special prosecutor recommended after a March hearing. (The 13th defendant, who would've been eligible for release under Whitmire's bill, remained in jail Monday on a warrant from Potter Co. One other defendant also remains in jail pending the outcome of his direct appeal; the rest have already been paroled or released on probation.)

On June 7 the State Bar of Texas named Amarillo defense attorney Jeff Blackburn criminal defense attorney of the year for his work defending a majority of the Tulia 46. Blackburn (along with Plainview attorney Paul Holloway, who was appointed to defend nine of the defendants) was instrumental in discrediting Coleman's testimony. Coleman is currently facing three charges of aggravated perjury for lying on the stand during the March evidentiary hearing.

Meanwhile, it appears the Tulia debacle has spurred its own little cottage industry. On Thursday, June 19, at 5pm, Waterloo Records will host a CD-release party for the 11-song Tulia Texas Review, reportedly designed to celebrate the 12 defendants' newfound freedom. Attorney Jeff Frazier, who volunteered to help Texas ACLU Director Will Harrell organize and file various federal lawsuits and complaints stemming from the Tulia debacle, wrote the songs on the album, on which Frazier also sings along with Austin staples Malford Milligan and Ruben Ramos. While at least one song, titled "Tulia, Texas," clearly refers to the infamous drug sting, others -- such as "Thermobaric Bunker Buster Bomb" -- don't seem much related to the Panhandle busts at all. Still, according to a press release, a portion of the proceeds from the CD will be used to establish a Task Force Blues Legal Defense Fund.

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