May 14, 2003
Governor discovers Tulia

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."

This is the same Board of Pardons and Paroles that meets over the phone and doesn't actually discuss the cases that are in front of it before making their decisions. On the other hand, they are supposed to accept the governor's recommendations. If Perry is handing this off to them with a charge to Do The Right Thing, then good on him. If he's done this to fade the heat on himself and hide behind the BPP's dithering, then he's a bigger bastard than I've ever given him credit for.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 14, 2003 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack

I'm an adherent of the "bigger bastard" theory.

Suppose he actually sent it to BPP with no recommendation, or worse, a wink-wink-nudge-nudge negative recommendation.

Then those of us to saw Tulia as a travesty from the day it happened are happy because we see the gov trying to get BPP to do the right thing.

On the other hand, those who think the Tulia 13 should rot in prison until they die are happy because they know the BPP will do the right thing. After all, you've got to remember - this is Texas.

Posted by: Charles M on May 14, 2003 5:24 PM