Tulia bust racially motivated
"Do justice, love mercy, walk humble"
-Friends of Justice travel to Austin
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a
lawsuit on September 29th, 2000 against law enforcement officials
in the West Texas town of Tulia for their alleged role in a highly
criticized undercover drug bust that resulted in the arrest of
one in 10 of the town's entire black population. The lawsuit,
which targeted the sheriff of Swisher County, a deputy and the
district attorney, illustrates how the nation's war on drugs
really is a war on blacks.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in
Amarillo, was prompted by a 1998 undercover drug operation that
resulted in the arrest of 43 people for allegedly selling cocaine
in Tulia, a town of about 5,000 people south of Amarillo. Thirty-nine
of those arrested were African Americans. Only 350 of the town's
residents are African Americans. The ACLU believes they were
targeted because they are black Americans.
The ACLU of Texas announced its intentions
to file a law suit against Tulia Sheriff Larry Stewart, undercover
agent Thomas Coleman and District Attorney Terry McEachern for
a conspiracy to violate the civil rights of the African American
population of Tulia, Texas. The details of this law suit was
revealed September 29, 2000 on the South steps of the Capitol
by ACLU of Texas Executive Director Will Harrell. Also present
were the families and orphans of the wrongly imprisoned Tulians.
The civil law suit alleges the following claims:
- Defendants' under color of law and in violation
of 42 U.S.C. S 1983, have subjected Plaintiffs to the deprivation
of their rights, privileges and immunities secured by the Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendants deliberately
and selectively targeted and prosecuted Plaintiffs using the
unjustifiable and arbitrary standard of race. This was done with
a discriminatory purpose and had a discriminatory and devastating
effect. Defendants' purposeful discrimination was intended to
accomplish the forbidden aim of cleansing Tulia of its black
population. Similarly situated non-blacks were not targeted
nor prosecuted. Defendants' discriminatory actions have directly
and proximately caused harm to Plaintiffs.
- In violation of 42 U.S.C Section 1985(2),
Defendants conspired together for the purpose of impeding, hindering,
obstructing, or defeating, the due course of justice in Texas
with the intent to deny Plaintiffs the equal protection of the
laws. Defendants' actions have directly and proximately caused
damage to the Plaintiffs.
- In violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983(3),
Defendants conspired together to go in disguise on the Plaintiffs'
premises to deprive Plaintiffs of the equal protection of the
laws or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws. Defendants'
actions have directly and proximately caused harm to plaintiffs.
- Defendants knowingly procured arrest warrants
based on mistaken identity and baseless allegations to deprive
Plaintiffs of their liberty. Defendants' conduct amounts to a
raw, wanton and arbitrary abuse of police power. No reasonable
police officer could have believed that plaintiffs had violated
the law. Said conduct amounts to an intentional invasion of guaranteed
privacy interests resulting in the search and seizure of Plaintiffs
without probable cause. Defendants' actions directly and proximately
caused damage to Plaintiffs.
- Defendants intentionally or with conscious
indifference deprived Plaintiffs of their liberty without due
process of law. Their actions of selectively targeting the African
American community in Tulia and their wanton departure from established
practice worked a deprivation of Plaintiffs liberty interests
in a manner unrelated to any legitimate object of arrest that
shocks the conscience. Defendants had the primary duty not to
convict, but to see that justice was done and not to suppress
facts or secrete witnesses capable of establishing the innocence
of the accused. Further, they had the duty to insure a fair
trial for both the state and the defendant and to not impair
the presumption of innocence. Defendants intentionally or with
conscious indifference breached these duties, violating Plaintiffs
right to due process and directly and proximately causing them
- Defendants have established and caused the
commencement of a criminal prosecution against the plaintiff
that was terminated in the Plaintiff's favor. The Plaintiff
was innocent. There was no probable cause for the proceedings.
The charge was filed with malice resulting in damage to the
- Defendant have made an illegal, improper,
or perverted use of the arrest warrant for purposes other than
those approved by law and with no probable cause thereby causing
damage to Plaintiffs.
- Defendants willfully directed, requested,
or participated in Plaintiff's detention without plaintiff's
consent and without authority of law thereby causing damage to
- Defendants intentionally or knowingly caused
physical contact with Plaintiff when they knew or should have
reasonably believed that Plaintiff regarded the contact as offensive
or provocative. Defendants actions directly and proximately caused
damage to Plaintiff.
- Defendants as officers or employees of the
state or of a political subdivision of the state acting or purporting
to act in an official capacity have, because of a Plaintiff's
race, imposed an unreasonable burden on the Plaintiff.
The ACLU of Texas, through cooperating attorneys
Jeff Blackburn, Van Williamson, and Jeff Frazier, are also handling
some appeals of individuals wrongly convicted on the basis of
evidence provided by Coleman. We are also forwarding all relevant
documentation to the United States attorney and urging that office
to bring criminal prosecutions against Mr. Coleman and Mr. McEachern
for perjury and suborning perjury respectively.
"This is a gross miscarriage of justice
with clear racial motivations. The ACLU is seeking justice and
retribution by using the civil rights statutes. These are the
so-called anti-Klan laws which ironically were created to remedy
the perpetual racism of the post-Civil War south." announced
Will Harrell, Executive Director of the Texas ACLU.