Newsbrief: 12 Tulia Victims Walk Out of Jail 6/20/03

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The people arrested and convicted on drug charges after the notorious Tulia, Texas, drug bust of 1999 are going home. Twelve of the 15 people remaining in prison on Tulia charges were released on bond Monday to await a ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that should end their cases once and for all. The move came after Ron Chapman, a specially-appointed Texas judge who oversaw hearings on the cases, ruled that the prosecutions lacked credibility and the Texas legislature passed a bill that would allow the release of the remaining prisoners.

But it isn't over yet, according to attorneys who worked the case. "It's a significant day, but it's not the end at all," said Vanita Gupta, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "Our clients are walking out under the cloud of conviction."

And it could be tough for the released defendants to hang around, Amarillo lawyer Jeff Blackburn, who was key in springing the wrongly-convicted Tulia defendants, told the New York Times. "It's going to be impossible to stay here," said Jeff Blackburn, a lawyer from Amarillo. "These folks will have virtually no chance if they stay here. They will be arrested for spitting. They will be pursued to the ends of the earth."

Things could also get tough for the Texas criminal justice system, as a congressional committee prepares to scrutinize the Tulia incident this fall. Meanwhile, others in Congress are calling for the immediate overturning of the Tulia convictions. Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Melvin Watt (D-NC), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) joined more than 40 drug reform, criminal justice, civil liberties and civil rights groups in decrying the convictions and demanding that the verdicts be overturned.

CNN report:

Previous Week Online coverage:

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Issue #292, 6/20/03 DRCNet Needs Your Help | Editorial: No Drug War Exception to Good and Evil | The Gathering in Cartagena: The Global Social Forum Thematic Meeting on Democracy, Human Rights, War, and the Drug Trade | DRCNet Interview: Nancy Obregón, Sub-Secretary General of the Confederation of Peruvian Coca Growers | DRCNet Interview: Anthropologist Anthony Henman | Dozens of Students to Embark This Weekend on 50-Mile "Skate for Justice" | Newsbrief: 12 Tulia Victims Walk Out of Jail | No Rockefeller Reform This Session | Candidate Dean Bending on Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: RAVE Act Reverberations | Newsbrief: Teachers Against Prohibition Reborn as Educators for Sensible Drug Policy | Newsbrief: Kentucky Supreme Court Tightens Law on Methamphetamine Prosecutions | Newsbrief: Thais Get Drug War Help from US | Newsbrief: US-Peru Anti-Drug Flights Set to Resume | Newsbrief: Israeli Company Receives Notice of Allowance from US Patent Office for Synthetic Marijuana Pharmaceuticals | Teen Facing 26 Years for First-Time Marijuana Offense Sentenced to Two | Marc Mauer Testimony on Comparative International Rates of Incarceration | The Reformer's Calendar

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