Category: Tulia

San Antonio Current reviews Taking out the Trash in Tulia, Texas

Greg Harman of the San Antonio Current has published a review of my Tulia book.   “Taking Out the Trash is a complex narrative,” Harman says, “demonstrating that even in the starkest morality tales, human nature inevitably harbors innumerable shades and shadows. An indispensible offering in the growing Tulia canon.”

The full review appears below.

Tulia besieged: ‘Taking our the Trash in Tulia, Texas’

 By Greg Harman

The story of Tulia has propelled the careers of a handful of journalists and documentary filmmakers. And the now-infamous 1999 drug sting in the small Panhandle town that put 16 percent of the town’s black residents in jail on manufactured evidence by a crooked lawman was to be is being produced as a full-length feature film starring Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry. But the public story has been mostly the domain of outsiders, where out-of-state crusaders are able to unpack all the worst preconceptions of rural Texas — notions not challenged in the least by the obvious racism on display in Tulia a decade ago. (more…)

Hymns, prayers and earthquakes

By Charles Kiker

On Sunday part of the scripture for the Sunday School class Patricia and I lead was from the sixteenth chapter of Acts, starting with the conversion of Lydia in Philippi, then to the exorcism of the spirit that possessed a slave girl. Now that slave girl and her spirit of divination was the source of considerable profit to her owners. So they were more than a little unhappy with Paul and Silas regarding this turn of events. The girl’s owners complained to the police, who arrested Paul and Silas, beat them, and threw them in the calaboose. So how did Paul and Silas respond? They had a prayer meeting and a hymn sing. (more…)

Adapting reality to the white viewer

The New York Times recently ran an article lamenting the all-white list of nominees for this year’s Oscars.  Randy Shaw (see below) points out that it ain’t just the movies; television offers few characters or programs aimed at the non-white audience. 

Shaw references David Simon’s The Wire as a blessed exception to the rule and wonders why such a critical success hasn’t been emulated (except by HBO’s Treme, and that show is also produced by David Simon).

It’s simple; The Wire was always more popular with critics than with viewers.  It held its own; but Simon’s programs received only a fraction of the audience that followed The Sopranos, for instance.  Why is that?  

The answer isn’t pleasant.  White audiences don’t relate well to non-white protagonists.

Early on in the Tulia fight, several producers showed a tentative interest in bringing the story to the silver screen.  I didn’t pay much attention to the let’s-make-a-movie phenomenon because we were years away from resolution.  Secondly, I figured the story was too morally ambiguous for Hollywood.  I remember being asked if my family would be interested in playing the starring role in a film.  When I protested that the affected community should be at the center of the movie I was assured that the American viewing public would have little interest in poor black people living in an isolated Texas town. (more…)

Good news, bad news for final two Tulia defendants

The good news is that the last two victims of the Tulia drug sting, Landis and Mandis Barrow, have had their records cleared.  (The full explanation for this delay of justice can be found here.)  The bad news is that both men remain entangled in the criminal justice system.

It is difficult to decipher the extent of the Barrow twins’ involvement with Tom Coleman in Tulia.  My files are stuffed with letters from Landis and Mandis wrote me while in prison, and my book Taking out the Trash in Tulia, Texas benefited from that correspondence.   A few Tulia defendants admitted selling crack to the undercover agent, but they were charged with selling powder cocaine. 

This may sound like a distinction without a difference, but it isn’t.  Coleman bought a few ten or fifteen dollar rocks of crack cocaine from known users but received as much as $200 for the highly diluted 8-balls of powder he turned in to the Amarillo Police Department. (more…)

Simple Justice reviews “Taking out the Trash in Tulia, Texas”

“That Alan Bean chose to keep his narrative close to the vest, to let the facts do the talking for him rather than ram the moral of this sordid story down the reader’s throat, makes this book a fascinating and consuming read. Be prepared, as once you start reading Taking Out The Trash, chances are you won’t put the book down until you’ve finished.”

Scott Greenfield’s review of Alan Bean’s book, “Taking out the Trash in Tulia, Texas” originally appeared in Scott’s highly respected blog, Simple Justice.

Book Review: Taking Out The Trash in Tulia, Texas

I’ve never been to Tulia. There’s no particular reason why I would go there, and yet after reading Alan Bean’s book, Taking Out The Trash in Tulia, Texas, published by Advanced Concept Design Books, I feel as if I know the place well. (more…)

Major study examines prosecutorial misconduct

By Alan Bean

In another sign that the American mainstream is taking notice of a broken system of justice, USA Today has published “Justice in the Balance“, a series of articles focusing on prosecutorial misconduct, particularly in the federal justice system.  The series began in September of last year and the most recent submission was posted on December 29, 2010.

According to writers Kevin McCoy and Brad Heath, “USA TODAY documented 201 cases since 1997 in which federal courts ruled that prosecutors had violated laws or ethics rules.  Some of these violations put innocent people in prison, but in at least 48 cases defendants were later convicted, then had their sentences reduced or were even set free . . . Although those represent a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of federal criminal cases filed each year, the problems were so grave that judges dismissed indictments, reversed convictions or rebuked prosecutors for misconduct.” (more…)

Pardons in a punitive age

By Alan Bean

‘Tis the season for executive pardons–or at least it used to be. 

The editorial board of the Washington Post is criticizing President Obama for making nine trifling pardons, most of which involve small crimes that date back decades. 

In a slashing opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News, Scott Henson of Grits for Breakfast questions the prevailing practice of handing out a few scattered pardons like Christmas presents while ignoring entire categories of people who have fallen victim to ill-considered policies like putting non-violent citizens  in prison for simple pot possession.

Meanwhile, NYT columnist Bob Herbert takes a stripe out of Mississippi Governor Hailey Barbour and the political establishment of Mississippi for their shabby treatment of the Scott sisters. (more…)

“Support the poor, or go to hell”

Over at Religious Dispatches, Daniel Schultz takes the religious Left to task for being too nice.  Here’s a teaser:

“I’ve been asked a lot over the course of this fall why we don’t have a politically effective religious left in America. The short answer is that there’s a significant trade-off between being nice (or engaging in “civil discourse,” as it’s called these days) and being potent. All the commitment to moral suasion, to building consensus, to reconciliation between political opponents, all the commitment in the world to “speaking out” about your values isn’t going to accomplish squat.”

Pastor Dan’s “support the poor, or go to hell” theme is one of several semi-serious suggestions for giving progressive religious messaging some much-needed bite. (more…)

Challenging the new Jim Crow, part 2

This is the second excerpt from a speech recently delivered at the Campaign to End the Death Penalty conference on the campus of the University of Chicago.  The introduction can be found here. AGB

The new Jim Crow comes to Tulia, Texas

By Alan Bean

Sheriff Larry P. Stewart

To understand how radically our society has changed it is helpful to trace the life stories of the folks running the new Jim Crow machinery in small southern towns. The stories you are about to hear are taken from cases investigated by Friends of Justice, but they are symptomatic of a national disease.

I started talking about the new Jim Crow in Tulia, Texas when I realized that a drug bust that swept up half the adult black males in town was standard operating procedure.

There is a picture of Larry Stewart in an old copy of the Tulia Herald. It was Cowboy Day at the Tulia High School, circa 1960, and Larry came dressed as an old-time Texas Sheriff, badge and all. But Larry wasn’t supposed to grow up to be a lawman; like most local boys he wanted to farm like his daddy did before him. (more…)

Democrats and the Drug War

By Alan Bean

New York Times columnist Charles Blow asks why Democrats have shown such loyal support for a drug war that targets one of its core constituencies.  Here’s the salient quote:

“It is, in part, callous political calculus. It’s an easy and relatively cheap way for them to buy a tough-on-crime badge while simultaneously pleasing police unions. The fact that they are ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic men and, by extension, the communities they belong to barely seems to register.”

Exhibit A is the Obama administration’s staunch support for the Byrne Grant program.  The Tulia drug sting (which created Friends of Justice) was funded with Byrne money.  This partly explains why George Bush made drastic cuts to the program–it had embarrassed the Lone Star State.  Barack Obama knows that most Byrne funding is channelled into statistic-generating narcotics programs that (a) lock up disproportionate numbers of poor black men and (b) do absolutely nothing to address the harms associated with drug abuse. 

Tragically, support for the drug war has always been a cheap way for democrats to play the tough-on-crime card.  (more…)