Pubdate: Sat, 23 Aug 2003
Source: Tyler Morning Telegraph (TX)
Copyright: 2003 T.B. Butler Publishing Company, Inc.
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


TULIA, Texas (AP) - When Kizzie White applies for a job this week, the 
information on her application form will be different.

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

"We actually can put on our application 'never been convicted of a felony'" 
said White, 26. "I'm really free, and I thank God I am."

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 Texas 
Panhandle town of about 5,100 residents 70 miles north of Lubbock. No drugs 
or money were found during the arrests.

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

Charges against seven defendants were dismissed before trial and one 
defendant died before his trial.

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 unanimously recommended the pardons.

Former state Judge Ron Chapman, who was brought out of retirement to 
preside over a review of the case this past spring, said in a report filed 
with an appeals court that Coleman was "the most devious, nonresponsive 
witness this court has witnessed in 25 years on the bench in Texas."

That document, which also was signed by special prosecutors and defense 
attorneys, said Coleman's "blatant perjury" during the Tulia prosecutions 
"so undermines the court's confidence in the validity of the convictions 
entered in those cases that it would be a travesty of justice to permit the 
applicants' convictions to stand."

As a result of the testimony Coleman gave at those hearings, Coleman faces 
a preliminary hearing next month on perjury charges.

White celebrated Friday with her brother, Kareem White.

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

Freddie Brookins Jr., who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison on 
Coleman's word, said that since his release in June he had been turned away 
from several job opportunities.

"By this happening, hopefully we'll be able to get jobs," he said of the 

Brookins plans to enroll in college and earn a business management degree.

Kizzie White said she now faces fewer hurdles to her goal of getting a 
nursing degree.

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

Three of those convicted were ineligible to seek pardons because of 
separate legal issues.
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