Pubdate: Fri, 19 Dec 2003
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2003 The Dallas Morning News
Author: David Sedeno
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


The prosecutor involved in the infamous Tulia drug cases that resulted
in full pardons for 35 people will appear on Friday before a State Bar
of Texas grievance committee looking into possible misconduct.

Terry McEachern, the district attorney for Swisher and Hale counties,
will appear before a three-member panel in Amarillo on Friday. Lubbock
attorney Richard L. Wardroup, who himself has been twice briefly
suspended from practicing law by the state bar for various
infractions, will represent Mr. McEachern.

Mr. Wardroup did not return telephone calls seeking comment, and State
Bar of Texas officials declined to comment on the hearing.

The panel is expected to hear testimony from several people involved
in or familiar with the Tulia drug cases. The committee can dismiss
the case against Mr. McEachern or, if it finds cause for misconduct,
the committee may negotiate penalties, which could include a public or
private reprimand, a suspension or disbarment.

In 1999, 46 Tulia residents, most of them black, were arrested after
an 18-month undercover operation conducted by Tom Coleman, a freelance
investigator. He worked with minimal supervision as a member of the
Panhandle Regional Narcotics Task Force, and his alleged drug buys
were never corroborated with tape recordings, video recordings or witnesses.

After an evidentiary hearing last spring, Mr. Coleman was found to be
not credible, and a legal process began to clear the drug convictions
of those defendants. In August, Gov. Rick Perry pardoned 35 of them.

Mr. Coleman is facing two counts of perjury related to the drug

In court documents presented earlier this year to the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals in an effort to clear the convictions, Mr. McEachern
is accused knowing that the undercover agent was not credible but
still pressing on with the cases.

Those court documents - prepared by special prosecutors and attorneys
for the defendants and signed by retired appeals court Judge Ron
Chapman of Dallas - stated that Mr. McEachern gave conflicting
accounts during the original trials and during a deposition earlier
this year to review the convictions.

Although grievance hearings or their existence usually are kept
secret, Mr. McEachern asked Swisher County officials to help him pay
for his defense. County officials declined.

Friday's hearing is the latest in a series of personal legal
skirmishes for Mr. McEachern. He is appealing a driving-while-intoxicated
conviction in New Mexico.
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