CINEMA FRIDAYS: Tulia, Texas: 10 Years Later
Here's how the story went: During the summer of 1999, undercover narcotics agent Thomas Coleman executed one of the biggest drug stings in Texas history. Coleman, who would later be dubbed "Texas Lawman of the Year," was responsible for the arrest of 46 residents on charges of suspected drug dealing in the small farming town of Tulia, Texas.
As the drug task force program grew nationally so did the racial disparities among drug offenders, with African Americans today accounting for more than 50 percent of sentenced drug offenders, yet only 13 percent of the country's population. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws fueled the disproportionate number of African Americans in prison. In Tulia, low paid court-appointed attorneys with little interest in challenging the system represented most of the defendants indicted for cocaine dealing. And because there are no laws requiring undercover officers provide corroborating evidence, Coleman's testimony was all that was necessary to secure convictions. With increased awareness of the problems in drug law enforcement, civil liberties and tax reform groups have pressured Congress to evaluate the effectiveness of the federally funded drug task forces, set stricter standards and more closely monitor them. The ACLU of Texas has lobbied to enact "The Tulia Rule," requiring states receiving federal funding to provide corroborating evidence for any testimony by undercover officers or informants in drug cases.
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