Pubdate: Sat, 23 Aug 2003
Source: Beaumont Enterprise (TX)
Copyright: 2003 Beaumont Enterprise
Author: Betsy Blaney
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


When Kizzie White Applies For A Job Next Week, The Information On Her 
Application Form Will Be Different.

The 26-year-old mother of two was one of 38 defendants convicted in a Tulia 
drug sting on the word of an undercover agent later charged with perjury. 
Friday, she and 34 other involved in the bust were granted pardons by Gov. 
Rick Perry.

"We actually can put on our application 'never been convicted of a felony'" 
White said. "I'm really free, and I thank God I am."

In issuing the pardons, Perry said he was influenced by questions about the 
testimony of Tom Coleman, the only undercover agent involved in the July 
1999 busts.

Coleman 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 60 miles north of Lubbock.

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

In June, Perry signed a bill allowing the release of the 12 Tulia 
defendants who were still in prison. Last month, the Texas Board of Pardons 
and Paroles was asked by Perry to review the cases and unanimously 
recommended the pardons.

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 faces a preliminary hearing next month on perjury charges stemming 
from testimony he gave at the spring hearings.

White and her brother, Kareem White, celebrated Friday in the small 
Panhandle town about 70 miles north of Lubbock.

"We were yelling and screaming in the middle of the streets," Kizzie White 
said. "I'm very excited."

Freddie Brookins Jr. had been sentenced to 20 years in prison on Coleman's 
word and was one of the 12 released by Perry in June.

Since then, he said he's been turned away from several job opportunities. 
"By this happening, hopefully we'll be able to get jobs," he said.

Now, he has plans to enroll in college in nearby Amarillo and earn a 
business management degree.

Kizzie White said her goal of getting a nursing degree will include fewer 
hurdles now.

"I'm ready, and I'm going Monday morning" to apply for jobs and admission 
to Amarillo College, she said.

Of those convicted but not pardoned, one is on deferred probation and two 
were not eligible to seek pardons because of convictions on other charges.

Also Friday, two women who were indicted but never prosecuted after the 
drug busts filed a lawsuit in an Amarillo federal district court against 
law enforcement officials. Drug charges against Zuri Bossett and Tonya 
White were dropped last year after they proved they were not in Tulia at 
the time Coleman claimed he bought drugs from them.

The women sued Coleman, Swisher County and its sheriff, Larry Stewart, 
prosecutor Terry McEachern and several officials with a narcotics task 
force in Amarillo that worked with Coleman.

The women, who did not specify damages in their lawsuit, said the officials 
violated their civil rights and directed racial bias against Tulia's black 
population. Coleman's attorney did not immediately return calls for 
comment. Stewart declined to comment. McEachern said he hadn't seen the 
lawsuit and couldn't comment, and officials at the task force were unavailable.

Swisher County officials approved a $250,000 settlement for those 
imprisoned on Coleman's word in exchange for the defendants promising not 
to sue the county. Bossett and White did not receive any of the settlement 
because charges against them were dropped.
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