April 02, 2003
Finally, maybe, some justice in Tulia

At long last, the 13 residents of Tulia who are still in jail as a result of the scandalously botched drug bust from 1999 may soon be set free:

A judge reviewing four of the cases for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said Tuesday he will recommend that all the convictions resulting from the bust be vacated because of the conduct of the lone undercover officer working for the Panhandle Drug Task Force.

"It is stipulated by all parties and approved by the court that Tom Coleman is simply not a credible witness," said retired state District Judge Ron Chapman of Dallas.

Chapman said he will recommend that the appeals court grant new trials to all 38 defendants, most of whom are black -- a fact that led to charges the sting was racially motivated.

However, Ron Hobson, a special prosecutor assigned to help Swisher County with the cases, said that because the state had stipulated that Coleman was not credible, it will not try the defendants again.

"If the appeals court sends them back, we'll dismiss them," he said. "It would be foolish for us to go forward."

This is great news, and long overdue. Major kudos to Ron Hobson for being more interested in justice than in results, a trait not shared by some prosecutors.

When I first noted this story, a bit from an article in Texas Monthly jumped out at me. Here's the relevant quote, which you can see in that earlier entry as well:

WHAT BECAME OF THE OTHER players in the sting? Officer [Tom] Coleman—presented with an Outstanding Lawman of the Year award by [then-Attorney General John] Cornyn following the busts—has since been fired from two narcotics postings and has gone to ground in Waxahachie; his lawyer deflects the media inquiries that still regularly come, from Court TV to the London Independent.

I'd sure like to ask John Cornyn what he thinks of Tom Coleman now.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 02, 2003 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack