Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

January 10, 2005 - The Associated Press (US)

Jury Selection Begins For Former Tulia Agent

By Betsy Blaney, AP Writer

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

LUBBOCK (AP) - A judge began questioning a pool of 101 prospective jurors Monday in the perjury trial of a former police officer whose discredited Tulia drug busts put dozens of people in prison.

Lawyers were expected to question them later Monday in the case of Tom Coleman, who could face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each of three felony charges of aggravated perjury. The trial centers on whether Coleman lied about his own arrest record during evidentiary hearings for some of the defendants in 2003.

John H. Read II, one of Coleman's attorneys, said retired state district judge Ron Chapman wrongly stopped Coleman's testimony during the hearings after he, defense attorneys and prosecutors concluded Coleman was not a credible witness.

"He wasn't able to explain what he said at the hearing because it wasn't handled properly," Read said. "They never let him come back and clear up the misconceptions."

Coleman used no audio or video surveillance to substantiate drug buys he said he made while working in Tulia as an undercover agent for the Panhandle Regional Narcotics Trafficking Task Force.

No drugs or money were found during the arrests. He worked alone and kept no written records of his drug buys, except for incident reports, some which were later determined to be false.

Defense attorney John H. Read II, left, defendant Tom Coleman, center, and defense investigator Jay Monych, right, wait outside the Lubbock County Courthouse in Lubbock, Texas, Monday Jan. 10, 2005, for the beginning of Coleman's perjury trial.

Coleman is a former undercover agent responsible for the discredited Tulia drug busts that put dozens of people in prison using false evidence. Coleman, who is no longer in law enforcement, faces three charges of aggravated perjury stemming from a 2003 hearing to determine if some of the 46 people arrested during the late 1990s in the small farming town of Tulia received fair trials.

Following the 18 months in the late 1990s in which Coleman built cases and made arrests, 38 people, most of them black, were convicted of selling small amounts of cocaine and received sentences of up to 90 years apiece. Coleman is white.

The cases received international attention after civil rights groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, questioned whether the drug busts were racially motivated.

Joe Welton Moore, who spent four years in prison as one of Coleman's drug busts, said he planned to watch the trial.

He was sentenced to 90 years and was later among dozens of people in the case who were pardoned on a judge's recommendation after a 2003 hearing to determine if some of the 46 arrested in the small farming community received fair trials.

Moore was supposedly the drug kingpin of Tulia even though he lived in a rundown house with hog pens on the property. After a one-day trial, Moore, who had a previous narcotics felony on his record, was sentenced.

Despite losing his farm and spending four years in prison, Moore said he doesn't want Coleman to go to prison. "Prison ain't no good place to be," Moore said.

In August 2003, Gov. Rick Perry pardoned 35 of the 38 defendants who went to trial or accepted plea agreements.

Last year, 45 of those arrested split a $6 million settlement of a civil rights lawsuit against Coleman and the 26 counties and three cities that were involved with the task force.

Prosecutor Rod Hobson declined to comment. However, Perry and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who was Texas attorney general at the time of the drug busts, are among the 61 witnesses Hobson's office has subpoenaed to testify.

The trial is expected to last about a week.

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact