Pubdate: Sat, 13 Mar 2004
Source: Times-Picayune, The (LA)
Copyright: 2004 The Times-Picayune
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


Even though they will divide a $5 million settlement among themselves,
the dozens of residents in Tulia, Texas, who were humiliated at the
hands of law enforcement are unlikely to ever forget their unjust treatment.

Nor should the rest of the country forget. In 1999, about 10 percent
of the roughly 400 black residents in Tulia were rounded up and
arrested for allegedly distributing drugs. Though the 46-person
roundup also included seven Tulia residents who were not black, the
arresting officer's admission under oath that he routinely referred to
black people as "niggers" makes it impossible to ignore the racial
malice involved.

The town of Tulia is too small and poor to have provided a
settlement, but officials in the nearby city of Amarillo, Texas, a
participant in the multi-agency task force that ensnared the Tulia
residents wanted to make amends. Marcus Norris, a city attorney for
Amarillo, said the $5 million settlement is the responsible thing to
do. The task force will also be disbanded.

There wasn't enough evidence to warrant the arrests of the Tulia
residents, let alone to justify sentences of up to 99 years. Officer
Tom Coleman had neither audio-nor videotape to back up his claims
that he bought drugs from the defendants. None of the defendants were
found with drugs or suspicious amounts of money. Some were living in
ramshackle houses.

The defendants were so obviously wronged that Gov. Rick Perry pardoned
35 of them in one fell swoop. The money they will now divide will
certainly help them, but as wrongly convicted Kizzy Smith said, "That
can't bring back the time I missed with my kids."
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