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A Look at How a Single Officer in Tulia Texas Arrested 46 People On False, Trumped-Up Drug Charges: Falsely Convicted Suspects Join us in the Studio

May 08, 2003

In the tiny town of Tulia, Texas in 1999, a single under-cover officer arrested 43 people arrested on charges of selling small amounts of cocaine. The officer had no corroborating evidence in the biggest drug sting in local history.

Forty out of the 43 defendants were black. More than ten percent of the African-American community were arrested.

In some cases, hometown juries later meted out sentences ranging from 20 years to more than 300 years.

Local officials declared the operation a stunning success. 22 of the defendants were sent to prison while others received probation. The undercover agent at the center of the operation, Tom Coleman, was named by the state as lawman of the year.

Last week, The Amarillo Globe-News reported defense attorneys have hammered out an agreement with special prosecutors and a judge.

According to the agreement, the 13 people still in prison from the drug sting operation should be freed.

The agreement is known legally as "findings of fact and conclusions of law." A source close to the negotiations told the Amarillo News the agreement will now be sent on to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for a final decision.

  • Jeff Blackburn, Civil rights lawyer and head of the Tulia Legal Defense Project.
  • Tanya White, falsely charged in Tulia Texas on drug charges. Charges were dropped because she was able to produce evidence showing she was in Oklahoma City at the time she was accused of selling drugs in Tulia.
  • Zuri Bossett, falsely charged in Tulia Texas on drug charges.