Pubdate: Sun, 24 Aug 2003
Source: Longview News-Journal (TX)
Copyright: 2003sCox Interactive Media
Author: A P
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)
Bookmark: (Tom Coleman)
Bookmark: (Incarceration)
Bookmark: (Racial Issues)


TULIA - 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

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 return calls for
comment. Stewart declined to comment. 
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