Pubdate: Wed, 14 Apr 2004
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2004 The Dallas Morning News
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


If you were accused of a crime in Texas, you'd certainly want to know that
the person prosecuting you values the truth more than a conviction record.

That's the importance of the State Bar of Texas' pursuit of a disciplinary
action against the prosecutor in the infamous Tulia drug busts. Forty-six
people, 39 of them African-American, wrongly spent time in jail, in part
because prosecutor Terry McEachern withheld from defense attorneys the
criminal history of Tom Coleman, the former undercover agent whose
since-discredited testimony led to the convictions in the 1999 drug busts.

Mr. McEachern prosecuted all of the cases. His conduct was shameful. State
bar officials say he failed to disclose Mr. Coleman's background, falsely
represented information during the criminal trials and violated rules by
failing to provide evidence favorable to the defendants. In essence, they
accuse him of violating the sacred public trust he vowed to uphold as a
lawyer and prosecutor.

Gov. Rick Perry last year pardoned 35 of those prosecuted, and the city of
Amarillo recently settled a civil rights lawsuit for $5 million. Others may
follow suit.

Justice requires that Mr. Coleman and Mr. McEachern also be called to
account for their actions. Mr. Coleman, who no longer is in law
enforcement, is set to stand trial next month on charges that he lied
during hearings related to the Tulia drug busts. Mr. McEachern, who lost
his re-election bid in last month's Republican primary - thank goodness! -
could face a public reprimand or lose his license if the state bar wins its

Justice requires punishment for the two men, whose actions led to the
imprisonment of dozens of people on trumped-up charges and festered an ugly
wound to the credibility of the Texas criminal justice system.
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