Pubdate: Sat, 23 Aug 2003
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2003, The Tribune Co.
Author: Betsy Blaney, The Associated Press
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 in

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.

Vanita Gupta, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which marshaled
law firms in New York and Washington to represent the defendants for free,
said Perry did the right thing.

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 town of
about 5,100 residents 60 miles north of Lubbock.

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

A judge this spring ruled 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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