Pubdate: Sat, 22 Mar 2003
Source: San Antonio Express-News (TX)
Copyright: 2003 San Antonio Express-News
Author: Betsy Blaney
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)
Bookmark: (Racial Issues)


TULIA (AP) -- The use of a racially charged epithet doesn't reveal 
prejudice, testified Tom Coleman, the man who worked undercover in Tulia 
and built drug cases against 46 people -- 39 of whom were black.

Coleman, who told the court Friday that the epithet doesn't in "this day 
and time" indicate racial prejudice, also admitted during evidentiary 
hearings for four of the black men convicted as a result of Coleman's 
18-month operation that he has used the epithet, as have his friends.

"It's kind of a greeting," Coleman testified. "When my friends would come 
over, I'd open the door and they'd say, 'what's up, (racial epithet)?' A 

He later denied information in an sworn affidavit by his ex-wife that she 
had seen a membership card to the Ku Klux Klan in Coleman's wallet.

"That's false," Coleman testified. "I don't have one."

"You don't now, but did you back then?" defense attorney Mitchell Zamoff said.

"No, sir, I didn't have one," Coleman testified.

The hearings adjourned Friday afternoon and were set to resume April 1.

It was Coleman's uncorroborated testimony that led to prison sentences for 
many of those arrested in the July 1999 busts, which civil rights groups 
have claimed were racially motivated. Sixteen remain in prison.

Coleman worked alone in Swisher County and used no audio or video 
surveillance, often writing notes on his leg about drug buys he'd made.

Zamoff also sought to impugn Coleman's testimony Friday.

Coleman testified he hadn't contacted the Texas Commission on Law 
Enforcement Standards and Education about having been arrested during the 
drug operation on theft and abuse of official capacity charges out of 
Cochran County, where he had worked previously.

He learned the commission required him to report the arrest, but only after 
receiving a letter of reprimand last year over the issue, Coleman testified.

Zamoff, though, played a portion of a videotaped interview Coleman did last 
year with a reporter from an Amarillo television station.

"I even called TCLEOSE and told them what happened," Coleman is heard 
telling the reporter on the videotape.

The convictions of the four men, whose sentences were as long as 90 years, 
were upheld on direct appeal.

But the appeals court last year asked the trial court for clarification on 
whether Jason Jerome Williams, Christopher Eugene Jackson, Freddie Brookins 
Jr. and Joe Moore were convicted solely on Coleman's word.

The court also wants to know whether the state failed to turn over 
information from Coleman's background that may have tainted his testimony.

Numerous times Coleman said 'I can't recall' when asked details of meetings 
he'd had with supervisors while undercover, as well from a gathering Feb. 
28 with Swisher County officials and District Attorney Terry McEachern, who 
prosecuted nearly all of the drug cases.

"You don't recall anything about a meeting that lasted three or four hours 
that happened two weeks ago, and you're testifying about what happened 18 
months ago when these people's freedom is at stake?" Zamoff asked.

"I remember meeting the new lawyers, talking about the cases, the 
supplements (reports), the pictures," Coleman testified.

Swisher County officials have stood behind the arrests and prosecutions.
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