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fendants of Tulia’s disenfranchised and one of the most vocal crit ics of the 1999 drug bust that decimated Tulia’s African-Ameri can community. Gardner objected to the school drug testing policy because he felt it was unconstitutional, and would eventually result in a lawsuit. When he failed to convince the board of its folly, he fulfilled his own prophecy, refusing to allow his son to be tested and going to federal court to file a suit against the school district. Unable to find a lawyer to take the case, Gardner trained himself in the law, taking his eighteen-year-old son with him to the law library at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and buying his own books from the law school bookstore. “The law’s a simple deal,” he says. “If you went to Bible school, can take a motor apart, and can read, you can be your own lawyer.” Once he locked horns with the school board, Gardner says, he began having trouble with all of Tulia’s establishment, including local law enforcement. “In these small towns it’s like Mexican judo,” Gardner said. “Once you mess with one Mexican, `ju’ don’t know how many of his cousins will come after you.” Over the years, Gardner has been the meanest cousin of them all, intervening on behalf of several of his Hispanic employees who fell afoul of the law and were in danger of being railroaded by the legal system. “If you’re black or Mexican in Tulia, and you get arrested, you plea out. You have to, because you can’t afford a good lawyer,” he said. Even if they could, a trial in Swisher County is simply not worth the risk, Gardner said: “Basically, in Swisher County, whatever Terry McEachern wants from a judge or a jury, he’ll get.” When the big cocaine bust first went down, Gardner said he felt certain the defendants were all guilty. But as a former cop \(he to the efforts by McEachern, Sheriff Stewart, and others to try the suspects in Tulia’s two newspapers. He wrote letters to each of the forty-five defendants urging them to seek a change of venue. And he found that their responses were similar. “A bunch started writing me back with the same thing: ‘I didn’t sell the man that much stuff,'” he said. Gardner attended the first trial, that of Joe Moore. “That was a lynching,” Gardner said of Moore’s jury trial. But it was the testimony of Tom Coleman that really disturbed him. “He said a thing or two that stood my hair up on end,” Gardner recalled. DEEP COVER Tom Coleman does not make a good witness. This is due in part to some of the same qualities that make him a good narc. A successful undercover agent must look like a hard-core drug user, the type of person who would buy drugs on the street from someone he does not know. Coleman fits the part. He is slightly built and short, with a pale, narrow face and a goatee. He wears his long, dirtyblond hair pulled back in a ragged pony-tail that extends down to his shoulders. When he appeared at an April hearing in Amarillo, called to revoke the probation of Tulia defendant Mandis Barrow, Coleman showed up wearing a dark sports coat over a dark shirt and dark tie, tight black jeans and cheap black loafers. He suffers from a form of astigmatism that causes his eyes to twitch, a condition he attempts to control on the witness stand by tilting his head slightly to one side, in a gesture that suggests he does not quite understand what he has just been asked. In testimony, he has a tendency to repeat questions before answering them, and to hedge every possible detail about his recollections. Given the opportunity, he offers long, rambling descriptions with plenty of ir relevant detail. But there are other reasons why Coleman is not an ideal witness. After huge jury verdicts in a half-dozen trials, some cracks have begun to appear in his credibility. Tulia defendant Billy Wafer’s probation-revocation hearing, held at the Hale County Courthouse in February, was the first major setback for the prosecution. Wafer had received ten years probation in 1990 for a felony marijuanapossession conviction in Plainview. At the time of his arrest in Tulia, he had served nine and one-half years of the probated sentence, with no arrests or failed drug tests. Now he was facing up to twenty years in prison if his probation were revoked a decision that rested solely on the testimony of Tom Coleman. In court Coleman testified that on January 18, 1999, he and Eliga Kelly had flagged down Wafer as they passed him on their way to Allsup’ s store on Highway 86. It was about 9:00 in the morning on a Monday. Coleman testified that he asked Billy to get him an eight ball, and to meet him at the sale barn with the drugs. According to Coleman, a woman showed up at the sale barn about an hour later with the cocaine. But Wafer had a rock-solid alibi. At the time Coleman alleged he had met with Wafer to set up the buy, Wafer was at Seed Resources in Tulia, where he worked as warehouse foreman. Wafer provided time cards, and brought his boss in as a witness. His boss testified that there was no doubt in his mind that Wafer was at work, as scheduled, all morning long. Eliga Kelley was not called to testify \(McEachern apparently thought that would not be necesversus that of Wafer’s boss, a respected member of the community. District Judge Edward Self declined to revoke Wafer’s probation. \(Wafer had already lost his job, however, having served thirty days in jail; he and his wife also lost a home loan they had Could Coleman have simply gotten his dates and times wrong? According to Eliga Kelly, the transaction never occurred at all. Four days after Wafer’s hearing, still angry from the blown case, McEachern appeared before Judge Self again, this time in Donnie White’s trial, which had just gotten underway at the Swisher County courthouse. McEachern called Kelly, who had turned state’s witness, to the stand. Though it was hardly germane to Donnie White’s case, McEachern asked Kelly about the exchange with Wafer. Didn’t he remember talking to Billy Wafer with Tom Coleman at the Allsup’s, and how a woman had come to the sale barn later to deliver cocaine? “I remember talking to Billy,” Kelly said, “but Billy told me to get out of his face.” For reasons difficult to fathom, McEachern then went rapidly through the list of those arrested in the sting, asking Kelly if he had helped arrange drug deals with each of them. Again and again, Kelly testified that he had not. In at least one case, Coleman seems to have been unclear on just who had supposedly sold him cocaine. Coleman alleged that Yul Bryant delivered an eight-ball to him in May of 1999, shortly before THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11 JUNE 23, 2000