Pubdate: Sun, 26 Oct 2003
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2003 Amarillo Globe-News
Author: Alton McQueen
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)
Note: The author is a retired engineer and a frequent contributor to Other
Opinion page.


The law-abiding citizens of Swisher County are the real victims in the
aftermath of the Tulia drug sting.

They were denied the use of law to protect their community from drug
predators. For attempting to do so, their community was vilified in the
national propaganda media, the reputations of their local officials were
trashed, and both the community and its officials face civil litigation (at
least) for years to come.

The eight people convicted of drug crimes by juries and the 27 who pleaded
guilty to similar crimes were greatly benefited by the propaganda campaign.
Our politicians of easy virtue released those in prison and pardoned almost
all those convicted either by juries or their own pleas.

This was a political operation directly resulting from the propaganda
campaign. Both the legal and judicial underpinnings were questionable, to
say the least.

The propaganda campaign was based on the fact that 39 of the 46 people
arrested in the sting were black. This was taken as conclusive evidence that
the sting was racially motivated. In the beginning, their guilt was not
questioned or their innocence alleged. Later such claims were made by those
convicted, their relatives and friends.

I suggest that anyone who believes in the innocence of those convicted give
some study and thought to the Sting Docket printed by the Amarillo Daily
News on March 20, 2001. Only 10 of the convictions were based on single drug
purchases and, of the 10, nine pleaded guilty.

During the 18-month duration of the sting, Tom Coleman made about 110 drug
purchases. As many as seven were made on different dates from single
sellers. For each purchase, Coleman was required to deliver the drug to the
task force for analysis and certification before it could be used as
evidence. Even so, it was endlessly stated in the media that the charges
rested exclusively on the "unsupported" word of Tom Coleman.

The unprecedented hearing ordered by the appellate court to discredit
Coleman was not, in any sense, a democratic operation. The elected officials
of Swisher County who knew the most about the matter were barred by the
court from participation in the hearing. The people had no voice in the
proceedings at all.

The Swisher County drug sting was carried out in accordance with the law.
Its legal underpinnings have not been attacked by the propaganda campaign or
in the courts. Attention has been focused solely on Coleman's credibility.
At no point in the hearing to discredit Coleman was a jury involved.

The plaintive Oct. 10 Globe-News editorial, "Drawing the line for Tulia
justice," wants to limit the consequences of its propaganda campaign to
Swisher County and maybe just to Tom Coleman.

Unfortunately, when politically motivated propaganda is allowed to overturn
the rule of law, as it did in Swisher County, what we get is the rule of men
- - mostly lawyers.
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