Pubdate: Sat, 23 Aug 2003
Source: Oklahoman, The (OK)
Copyright: 2003 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Author: Betsy Blaney, Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


TULIA, Texas -- Gov. Rick Perry on Friday pardoned 35 people who were 
arrested in the 1999 Tulia drug busts and convicted based on the testimony 
of a lone undercover agent later charged with perjury. "I believe my 
decision to grant pardons in these cases is both appropriate and just," 
Perry said in a statement.

The governor said he was influenced by questions about the testimony of Tom 
Coleman, the only undercover agent involved in the busts. In June, Perry 
signed a bill allowing the release of the 12 Tulia defendants who were 
still in prison.

The father of a man sentenced to 20 years in prison on Coleman's word 
called Friday's pardons "fantastic."

"We've been waiting for this for four years," said Freddie Brookins Sr., 
whose son was released in June.

An attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which marshaled law firms to 
represent the defendants for free, said Perry did the right thing.

"This is what we saw the facts showed," Vanita Gupta said.

Coleman had worked alone and used no audio or video surveillance to 
substantiate drug buys he said he made from 46 people from Tulia, a small 
town of about 5,100 residents.

Of the 46 people arrested in July 1999, 39 were black, which led civil 
rights groups to question whether the busts were racially motivated.

A judge this spring ruled that Coleman was "simply not a credible witness" 
and recommended the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturn the 
convictions of the 38 people prosecuted and order new trials. Coleman was 
indicted for perjury in April and faces a preliminary hearing next month.
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