Mark’s #15: Tulia

Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town

In light of our nation’s recent tribulations regarding race and allegations of systemic racial inequalities within our justice system, the subtitle of this book caught my attention. Here is a well documented example of the concerns many are voicing across the nation.

This is the story of a corrupt, racist, and notoriously unreliable undercover narcotics officer who coordinated the sting to arrest 39 residents of this small Texas town one day in the Summer of 1999 on charges of dealing cocaine. The bust would earn officer Tom Coleman the prestigious title of Texas Lawman of the Year for his work.

Despite his questionable background, lack of evidence and inconsistent accounts of his cases, the legal system of Tulia would make matters worse by giving their full faith and confidence to Tom Coleman. Virtually all of the defendants were convicted and given maximum sentences. The Sheriff, district attorney, prosecutor, local newspaper and the citizens on the jury all blindly believed the lawman.

In the summer of 2003, thanks to those who saw through the masquerade to the injustices and falsehoods of the state’s case, all the convictions were reversed, but the scars on this small rural community remained.

My takeaway: Tulia is one brief glimpse into one incident in one town in rural America. I tend to believe that gross miscarriages of justice like this is a rare thing in America. Nonetheless, injustices do remain and will continue to do so. Regardless of how one feels about the national situation we find ourselves in, reading this book will help you realize that there is at least some truth to the feelings of systemic injustice in our legal system.

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