Pubdate: Sat, 24 Aug 2002
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2002 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspaper
Author:  Thom Marshall
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


Dear Tulia Fourteen, Hope you won't mind my writing to you in the 
newspaper, but it seemed the easiest way to distribute a progress report 
since you are being held in so many different units across the state.

You may remember last week that Texas Attorney General John Cornyn told me 
he would try to call Swisher County DA Terry McEachern to talk about your 
situation. (Cornyn told me he was powerless to get you out, but McEachern 
could do it if he wanted.)

Well, McEachern told me this week that he was not in the office when Cornyn 
phoned, and when he returned the call, Cornyn wasn't available.

I had hoped that these two fellows would figure out a way to release you 
from prison, three years after the infamous raid. Considering that the lone 
lawman responsible for your convictions has become the focus of a great 
many questions about his methods, veracity and reputation. Considering 
state laws have since been passed to protect others from being convicted as 
you were, on the word of one man without any corroboration. Considering the 
governor has since reined in drug task forces by putting them under control 
of the Department of Public Safety. Ignoring 'pleas for justice' McEachern 
first told me that the courts have all the authority over you now. When 
pressed, he admitted he "could file a dismissal" that would get you out of 
prison. But he does not intend to do that.

"I'm just going to follow the law and let the chips fall where the courts 
decide," he said.

Will Harrell of the ACLU of Texas sent a memo Friday to the House Criminal 
Jurisprudence Committee. He said the attorney general has a great deal more 
power than he is claiming to have.

Harrell said Cornyn "has chosen to ignore the pleas for justice emanating 
from Tulia, Texas, and elsewhere," and that he "is shirking his 
responsibility in the most shameless manner."

Cornyn had told me that the most he could do in the matter is to assist the 
U.S. Justice Department in the civil rights criminal investigation into the 
Tulia drug bust of 1999.

A Justice Department official said last month that the investigation had 
been closed. Then last week another official said it hasn't been closed. 
And then U.S. senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton asked the 
DOJ to reopen it if it was closed.

Harrell said that at the end of 2000, when the investigation first started, 
federal officials were interviewing many people in Tulia. But after the 
change of administrations in Washington, he said, there has not been "any 
hint of an investigation. There has been no report. There have never been 
any criminal charges brought against anyone. There was never a federal 
judicial review of convictions called for by the U.S. DOJ."

President Bush was governor of Texas when that Tulia drug bust went down. I 
think we can safely assume that he would prefer not to see any 
investigation results that might show a drug task force abused your civil 
rights under his watch.

As for the man Bush chose to head the Justice Department, U.S. Attorney 
General John Ashcroft, maybe you heard about his plan to strip U.S. 
citizens deemed to be "enemy combatants" of their constitutional rights and 
hold them in internment camps without access to courts.

Digging through the politics Alan Bean, one of your hometown supporters in 
the Friends of Justice organization that was born in response to the 
outrageous drug bust and convictions, said that despite a lack of official 
investigating, many people are asking many questions. He said reporters 
from national media continue to write about the Tulia sting with fervor, 
although it happened three years ago.

A fellow at the New York Times has written half a dozen Tulia columns 
recently, and Bean said he has been contacted by People magazine and U.S. 
News and World Report, and he heard that CBS was in Tulia a few days ago.

I know you must get awfully frustrated, sitting in prison because your 
justice got buried under a big pile of politics, and people in power who 
should have gotten you out long ago keep dumping more on the pile.

But as more and more people across the country learn about you, they are 
picking up shovels to join others already digging through the politics, 
searching for justice. Enough people, enough shovels, and sooner or later 
it will be found.

Hold on to that hope.

Yours truly,
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom