Segments in this Video

Small Town Drug Problem (03:25)


Residents of Tulia have different perspectives on the sting operation and war on drugs that seemed to target African-Americans in the community.

Double Life (02:30)

Tom Coleman trained at the DEA academy before going undercover in Tulia, Texas as TJ Dawson. He partied hard and worked to gain the trust of locals. He became known for his love of cocaine.

Raid on "Black Town" (02:55)

The sting operation In Tulia, Texas lasted for 18 months. On July 23, 1999 officers made arrests in the early morning hours. Forty-six people were indicted for dealing cocaine. Thirty-nine were African-American.

Guilty Verdict in Tulia, Texas (04:15)

When Freddie Jr. was arrested his parents thought it must be a mistake. He turned down a plea bargain and went to trial. Tom Coleman says he bought drugs from the defendant who was sentenced to twenty years for delivery of a controlled substance.

Tulia Verdicts (01:59)

The eight defendants who fought the charges were convicted and sentenced to prison. The remaining defendants took plea bargains for probation or reduced sentences. Tom Coleman was awarded Texas Lawman of the year.

Town in Decline (02:15)

A small number of white residents spoke out against the sting in Tulia, Texas. Journalist Nate Blakeslee says there was a fear of drugs in the town and a feeling that vices originated on the "other side of the tracks".

Tom Coleman's Investigative Notes (04:02)

African-American residents were arrested in the raid were taken from the homes in the early morning hours then broadcast on television in their pajamas. Jeff Blackburn put together a team of lawyers to help the defendants in Tulia, Texas.

Regional Narcotics Task Force (02:46)

Tom Coleman insists the raid in Tulia, Texas was done by the books. The drug Task Force Program launched in the late 1980 drastically changed the way the drug war was prosecuted in Texas.

Questioning Coleman's Credibility (03:01)

Jeff Blackburn and his team pieced together information about undercover agent Tom Coleman. According to his time sheets four of the drug deals happened on his days off. He denies allegations that he lied or framed people in the sting operation.

Black Community in Tulia (03:55)

Freddie Jr. has been in prison for three years. A Tulia juror recalls the anger in town during the trials. African-Americans are not integrated into the economy or society in Swisher county.

Court of Public Opinion (03:34)

Freddie Jr.'s father talks about racism in town and in the trials. Residents of Tulia formed the Friends of Justice Coalition to bring publicity to the trials and unite the town. The NCAA, ACLU of Texas, and several and other organizations got involved.

Protecting Coleman from the Law (02:08)

Half way through the sting in Tulia it was discovered that Tom Coleman had a warrant out for his arrest for theft and abuse of official capacity in another county. Convinced the charges were false, the sheriff kept Coleman on the job.

Questioning Tom Coleman (03:25)

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided to hear evidence about Tom Coleman. Publicity attracted the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and a team of lawyers. Lawyers are presented evidence on behalf of four defendants including Freddie Jr.

Justice in Tulia (04:34)

Tom Coleman contradicted himself on the stand. Prosecutors are pursuing felony charges against Coleman for perjury. Two months after their release the convicted Tulia defendants were pardoned by the Governor of Texas.

Public Opinion in Tulia (01:48)

Some residents of Tulia do not believe racism played a part in the sting operation. The sheriff and DA who were involved in the operation still have their jobs.

Tom Coleman's Perjury Trial (02:20)

Tom Coleman believes the perjury charges against him are vindictive. Many Tulia defendants attended the trial and sentence. Coleman was found guilty and given probation.

After the Tulia Scandal (02:48)

There has been no public apology for the Tulia defendants. Texas eliminated its drug task force program. There are no laws in the U.S. that require corroboration of undercover narcotics agents.

Credits: Tulia, Texas (00:44)

Credits: Tulia, Texas

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Tulia, Texas

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Drug use was a fact of life in the African-American community of Tulia, Texas—but when it became common in white neighborhoods, too, civic leaders grew alarmed. In 1999 they brought in an undercover agent, later found to be a racist with a criminal record, to conduct a sting operation. Dozens of black citizens were rounded up, given perfunctory trials, and handed down unusually stiff sentences of up to 99 years behind bars. This program profiles the Texas sting operation that seemed to be more of a war on blacks than a war on drugs, examining the ties between race, poverty, and the criminal justice system that the incident implies. (54 minutes)

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: BVL49794

Copyright date: ©2008

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“A maddening, harrowing, and jolting documentary, this Editor’s Choice is highly recommended.”  Video Librarian           


“Shows how the War on Drugs became a virtual war on African Americans. It will make viewers think twice whenever they see a black person accused of a crime.”  —Eva Paterson, Equal Justice Society              


“A solidly crafted account of a disgraceful miscarriage of justice. Tulia, Texas compels interest with complex subjects and a fascinating narrative.”  Variety

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