Can You Hear Me Now?
After entering the national media spotlight in recent years
after The New York Times picked up the story of the 1999
Tulia, Texas drug busts, attention on the town has subsided to
almost nonexistent once again. Yet earlier this month The
Texas Observer's Nate Blakeslee revisited the current
situations facing those involved in the drug busts, and learned
about the history of Tulia that shaped the possibility for such a
sequence of events.
The short version of the Tulia story goes as follows: The town's sheriff used money from the governor's office to hire a undercover cop with a checkered past to work without supervision, making drug buys of mostly powdered cocaine from forty six different individuals. The officer never wore a wire and his reports were never corroborated by another, and at the time of arrest, not one suspect possessed any drugs or weapons. Additionally, forty of the forty-six suspects were black (in a town with less than 300 black residents), and the busts led to sentencing of some individuals with up to 90 years in jail.
In Blakeslee's second trip to Tulia, the author learns the history of the town's construction and how highways were used to separate and then throw together white and black Tulia, and re-interview some of the prisoners facing years in jail based on the spotty evidence of one undercover officer.