Last week, after Sen. John Whitmire (D, Houston) filed a bill to allow the 13 Tulia defendants who remain incarcerated to be freed on bond, Governor Perry's spokeswoman announced that the Guv had no comment until he could study all 32 lines of the bill. Apparently, he's finally finished reading it, for now he has ordered the state Board of Parole and Pardons to review all 38 convictions.
Breaking a long silence on the controversial 1999 arrests, Perry asked the board to "recommend whether a pardon, commutation of sentence or other clemency action is appropriate and just."
Perry's office said the governor contacted the parole board after reviewing the findings of a judge who recommended that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturn all 38 convictions and order new trials.
In his report to the appellate court, retired state District Judge Ron Chapman, who presided over evidentiary hearings in March, found that the only witness against the defendants, undercover officer Tom Coleman, was guilty of "blatant perjury" during the Tulia prosecutions.
"It would be a travesty of justice to permit ... the convictions to stand," Chapman wrote.
Perry, who received a copy of Chapman's findings last week, voiced "grave concerns about the potential miscarriage of justice."
Although the drug convictions have received extensive media attention in recent years, the governor said Chapman's findings "represent the first independent legal analysis on the so-called 'Tulia drug arrests' available to my office for review."