Evidence proves defendant was framed.
Charges have been
dropped against a defendant busted in the notorious Tulia,
Texas drug dragnet of 1999 after a bank slip proved she was 300 miles away when the alleged cocaine sale occurred.
Tanya White, 33, was charged with sell ing 1.3 grams of cocaine to undercover narc Thomas Coleman at around 10:30 AM
on Oct. 9, 1998. But defense investigators found a bank slip with a time-and-date stamp showing that she had been depositing a $168 workers' compensa tion check in a bank in Oklahoma City that morn inga five-hour drive from the Texas Panhandle town.
“It raised a reasonable doubt in my mind, so I immediately dismissed the charges,” says Swisher County District Attorney Terry McEachern.
Lawyers for and supporters of the 46 people arrested in the raids—39 of whom were black-had long suspected that Coleman was lying. The bank slip, which shows that White withdrew $8 in cash, is the first physical evidence proving that, says Jeff Blackburn of Amarillo, White’s lawyer.
“We nailed this narc lying bigger than Dallas,” he says. “This is going to be the key that will unlock a lot of those prior convictions.”
Of the 46 arrested, three have had charges dismissed; one, Zuri Bossett, faces trial in July; and 32 either plea-bargained or served short sentences. Ten remain imprisoned, including White’s brother Kareem, who’s serving 60 years for selling two grams of cocaine. "We’re going to get them all out,” vows Blackburn. The NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and the American Bar Association’s civil-rights division will also be involved, says activist Randy Credico.
DA McEachern says his office won’t reopen the cases, as appeals courts have already upheld several convictions.
The raids attracted national attention, as the defendants were almost all African-American in a town that’s less than 10% black. Coleman had bought the drugs with no witnesses, and claimed he’d copped several thousand dollars worth of powder cocaine in a poor neighborhood where people say the drug market is mainly $5 and $10 bags of marijuana and crack. He was named Texas “Lawman of the Year” for his role in the raids, despite having been arrested on theft charges the year before.
“It’s tempting to look at Tulia as an isolated incident in an isolated place, but this kind of stuff is going on all over,” Blackburn says. Local authorities, he argues, use drug prohibition as a vehicle to get lawenforcement money and arrest people they don’t like, while “poor people get rammed through the system.”