hard heads soft hearts
Monday, July 29, 2002
unfortunately I don't often read Bob Herbert but I did today and I can hardly believe my eyes:
what the hell is going on?
Bob Herbert "Kafka in Tulia, TX"
really you must read the whole thing but here are some excerpts:
"It is not an overstatement to describe the arrests in Tulia as an atrocity. The entire operation was the work of a single police officer who claimed to have conducted an 18-month undercover operation. The arrests were made solely on the word of this officer, Tom Coleman, a white man with a wretched work history, who routinely referred to black people as "niggers" and who frequently found himself in trouble with the law.
Mr. Coleman's alleged undercover operation was ridiculous. There were no other police officers to corroborate his activities. He did not wear a wire or conduct any video surveillance. And he did not keep detailed records of his alleged drug buys. He said he sometimes wrote such important information as the names of suspects and the dates of transactions on his leg.
In trial after trial, prosecutors put Mr. Coleman on the witness stand and his uncorroborated, unsubstantiated testimony was enough to send people to prison for decades.
In some instances, lawyers have been able to show that there was no basis in fact — none at all — for Mr. Coleman's allegations, that they came from some realm other than reality.
He said, for example, that he had purchased drugs from a woman named Tonya White, and she was duly charged. But last April the charges had to be dropped when Ms. White's lawyers proved that she had cashed a check in Oklahoma City at the time that she was supposed to have been selling drugs to Mr. Coleman in Tulia.
Most of Tulia's white residents applauded the arrests, and the local newspapers were all but giddy with their editorial approval. The first convictions came quickly, and the sentences left the town's black residents aghast. One of the few white defendants, a man who happened to have a mixed-race child, was sentenced to more than 300 years in prison. The hog farmer, a black man in his late 50's named Joe Moore, was sentenced to 90 years. Kareem White, a 24-year-old black man, was sentenced to 60 years. And so on. . .
Another defendant, Billy Don Wafer, was able to prove — through employee time sheets and his boss's testimony — that he was working at the time he was alleged by Mr. Coleman to have been selling cocaine. And the local district attorney, Terry McEachern, had to dismiss the case against a man named Yul Bryant after it was learned that Mr. Coleman had described him as a tall black man with bushy hair. Mr. Bryant was 5-foot-6 and bald.
The idea that people could be rounded up and sent away for what are effectively lifetime terms solely on the word of a police officer like Tom Coleman is insane. "
I suppose there is no need to get hysterical and fly off the handle, generalizing and stereotyping, but these people must be freed. let's hope the Texas governor and parole board are people of integrity.