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Texas Governor Pardons All 35 Convicted in Tulia Drug Case

August 25, 2003

A single under-cover officer in 1999 arrested 43 people in Tulia, Texas on charges of selling small amounts of cocaine. The overwhelming majority of the defendants were black. We speak with Jeff Blackburn of the Tulia Legal Defense Project.

All convicted in the notorious Tulia Texas drug sting case have been pardoned.

In a tiny Texas town in 1999, a single under-cover officer arrested 43 people on charges of selling small amounts of cocaine.

The officer had no corroborating evidence in the biggest drug sting in local history.

More than ten percent of the African-American community in the town was 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. He has been indicted on perjury charges.

  • Jeff Blackburn, Civil rights lawyer and head of the Tulia Legal Defense Project.