Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jun 2003
Source: Plainview Daily Herald (TX)
Copyright: 2003 Plainview Daily Herald
Author: Alan Bean


Your son has just been indicted for selling drugs to an undercover officer. 
The district attorney offered the kid five years in exchange for a guilty 
plea. But the boy won't take it. "Dad," he says, "I won't do time for 
something I didn't do."

So the case goes to court, the undercover cop says the deal went down, the 
kid says it didn't, and the jury has a decision to make.

Your son has no criminal record. Still, on the strength of a single 
witness, the jury finds the defendant guilty and sentences your flesh and 
blood to 20 years in prison. They pull the boy's well-muscled arms behind 
his back, the handcuffs click into place, and the young man is led out of 
the courtroom, tears and fire glistening in his eyes.

"It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people," the high 
priest Caiaphas told his comrades, "so that the whole nation perish not." 
The same equation has been scrawled across Tulia's moral chalkboard: "It is 
better, Mr. Brookins, that your son be wrongfully convicted than for our 
beloved community to be mocked in the pages of the New York Times."

In the state of Texas we don't send people to jail for having a bad 
reputation. In a drug case, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt 
that a specified dealer sold a specified narcotic to a specified buyer at a 
specified time and place. If the state can't meet that burden the defendant 
walks free. At least that's the theory.

When the prosecution, the judge and the defense all stipulate that your 
witness lacks credibility under oath, the game is over. Which is why 
special prosecutor Rod Hobson says he won´t prosecute the Tulia cases a 
second time. There´s nothing left to prosecute.

Yet Tulia remains divided. Some damn the press for smearing us as a pack of 
racists. If Freddie Brookins and his supporters had just kept their mouths 
shut, it is suggested, a world of hurt could have been avoided. Sheriff 
Stewart was just trying to rid our town of drugs and thugs, others argue, 
where´s the harm in that?

When Larry Stewart lauded Tom Coleman as a "man of integrity and 
professionalism," it became impossible for the people of Tulia to back away 
from Coleman without turning on their beloved sheriff. Stewart and his 
undercover man were joined at the hip. What the sheriff had joined together 
no man could cleave asunder. To remain true to Stewart you had to believe 

Larry Stewart should not bear the sole responsibility for foisting a 
corrupt cop on an unsuspecting populace. But you don't see letters to the 
editor defending Terry McEachern's integrity. And who celebrates Judge Ed 
Self's decision to withhold the truth from jurors? Stewart owns the respect 
and trust of the people of Tulia and only he can set the record straight.

Stewart hired an undercover agent without performing a credible background 

Stewart accepted Coleman's word that theft charges emanating from Cochran 
County were groundless.

Stewart hailed Tom Coleman as a man of integrity and professionalism when 
he knew it wasn't so.

As a representative of the state of Texas, Mr. Stewart knowingly withheld 
damning information about Coleman from defense counsel.

And there's the rub. Mr. Stewart's position has become logically 
unsupportable, morally unsustainable, and legally untenable. Those who 
stand behind him can expect nothing but scorn from a watching world.

The citizens of Tulia must choose between two earnest Church of Christ 
laymen: Larry Stewart and Freddie Brookins Sr. I suggest we pray for Mr. 
Stewart and rejoice with Mr. Brookins.

To paraphrase the words of the Master: "It is right that he should make 
merry, and be glad: for this his son was dead, and is alive again; he was 
lost, and is found."

(An ordained minister, Dr. Alan Bean currently serves as executive director 
of Friends of Justice, a Tulia-based criminal justice reform organization.)
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