Tulia Texas: Got Justice?_lowres


  Recent use of DNA testing proves innocent people do sometimes end up in jail for heinous crimes committed by other people. Nationally, the Innocence Project has exonerated 161 people since 2000. But what would injustice look like if it were meted out on a wholesale level in a small town? Tulia Texas captures the ugly truth. Whether the town (population 5,000) had an out-of-control drug problem or local law-enforcement agencies wanted to take advantage of federal grants for anti-drug initiatives is up for debate. The sheriff hired Thomas Coleman to work as an undercover narcotics agent, and after a year of investigating, the city indicted 46 people on drug charges (39 were black and lived in a poor section of town). Prosecutors sought terms in excess of 90 years, even in cases involving only a few grams of cocaine. Many defendants pled guilty to avoid trials, because, says one defense lawyer, Texas juries frequently convicted accused criminals solely on the uncorroborated testimony of one police officer. The undercover agent was named Texas Lawman of the Year for coordinating the biggest drug bust in state history. But as the cases of those who didn't accept pleas wound through the judicial system, it turned out Coleman had his own hidden past. The outrageous details of the Tulia cases made the national news in 2003. Ultimately, this documentary asks if the presumption of innocence extends to everyone — or is it based on race or a badge? Filmmakers Cassandra Herrman and Kelly Whelan will attend the screening and participate in a discussion. Free admission. — Will Coviello

Tulia Texas

5 p.m. Sun., Jan. 11

Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 827-5858; www.zeitgeistinc.net