Page 3


Tulia, continued from page 9 he had no previous record, he was given deferred adjudication, meaning the charge would be dropped altogether if he did not reoffend in the immediate future. There were no scholarship offers for Freddie. He had a lot of natural ability, but his chances were hurt by the fact that the program was not that good. The quality of coaching had deteriorated since the school’s heyday, and area colleges were not used to looking for talent from Tulia. Freddie worked briefly at Excel before his dad got him into the Job Corps, a federally funded job-training program for young people who are not college bound. Freddie went to the central Texas town of San Marcos, not far from Austin, for six months to learn auto body repair and painting. It hardly guaranteed Freddie’s future in Tulia, since there were only two body repair outfits in town. Still, it was continuing education, and Fred Sr. greatly preferred it to Freddie’s starting a career at Excel. In a stroke of luck, when Freddie got back to Tulia, he heard from a garage employee that the owner was looking to hire another man. But when Freddie stopped by to inquire, the man told Freddie he didn’t need anybody. He wouldn’t even give Freddie an interview. Freddie felt it was because he was black. Back in Tulia, Freddie rekindled his relationship with an old flame, Terry Basaldua. Terry was a smart girl with a quick smile, who had always admired Freddie’s sense of humor. She was a few years younger than Freddie and had a toddler, Serena, who was born when Terry was fourteen. Serena’s father, also just fourteen when the baby was born, was no longer in the picture, and Freddie treated Serena like his own child. He settled into working for his father, slopping hogs and tending the same piece of ranch property the family had once worked together. After his arrest, knowing that juries looked favorably on defendants with a steady paycheck, Freddie took a job at a cotton baling company just outside of town. One of Fred Sr.’s kids was back in cotton, after all. The night before the trial, Freddie and his father discussed McEachern’s plea offer. Freddie told his dad what Hrin had said about possibly being home in a year. Freddie did a month in the county jail before his parents could raise the $2,000 to bond him out. It had been the most miserable month of Fred Sr.’s life. He couldn’t imagine his son being locked up for an entire year. And he wouldn’t be in Tulia but in some state prison, for all they knew off in Huntsville, hundreds of miles away from his family. Freddie had maintained his innocence from the day he was arrested, and his father believed him. In his heart Fred Sr. believed his son would get a fair shake in Tulia, just as he felt Tulia had given him a chance to succeed. Cash Love and Joe Moore and the others had gone down, but they didn’t play by the rules. Freddie didn’t belong in prison, and there was only one possible answer to his dilemma. “Did you do it?” Fred Sr. asked. Freddie knew his dad was trying to make a point. “No, I didn’t,” he replied. “Well, then;’ Fred, Sr. said, “don’t take the deal.” Even though he was paid cash upfront for his services, Mike Hrin did less work preparing for trial than many of the appointed counsels. He seemed to think that Freddie was going to accept whatever deal McEachern offered him. His pretrial work consisted of reading Tom Coleman’s report and examining McEachern’s file. He filed no pretrial motions, not even a standard discovery motion for Brady material. He did not interview any of the state’s witnesses or talk to the other defense attorneys who had Tulia cases, with the exception of a brief visit with Van Williamson, who shared a building with Hrin in Amarillo. Williamson was the attorney in the disastrous Cash Love trial. He mentioned to Hrin a rumor he heard that Coleman had been in some kind of trouble in Pecos County, but he didn’t know any of the details. Freddie had difficulty getting Hrin to return his calls, and met with him only twice. He wanted Hrin to subpoena an alibi witness for him. Freddie remembered being in Amarillo at a relative’s house the day that Coleman allegedly bought cocaine from him. It was Easter weekend, and a cousin of Freddie’s had asked him for a ride so that he could go visit his family. The boy’s mother, Fred Sr.’s sister, was reluctant for her son to get involved in the trial, however. He was on probation, and she was scared of angering Terry McEachern. In any event, no subpoena was ever filed. All Freddie could do was plead with his cousin to show up in court for him. Freddie’s trial, presided over by Judge Ed Self in Tulia, lasted two days. As usual, Coleman was the only witness to the alleged transaction. He filed a report that was barely a paragraph, alleging that he had come to a duplex on East Broadway Street in Tulia looking for a man named Bennie Robinson. Nobody was home, Coleman wrote, but before he turned to leave a young man came out of the back half of the duplex and waved him over. “I’m Brookins,” Freddie allegedly said. “What do you need?” Coleman claimed that Freddie already had the baggie of cocaine in his pocket, even though he was presumably not expecting anyone. Coleman said he had never had a conversation with Freddie prior to that day, nor did he ever speak with him again. Freddie did live in the rear unit at the time, but he never had a conversation with Coleman, he told Hrin. He had only seen him driving around town in his truck with Man Kelly. Sheriff Stewart was the first witness to testify for the state. Early on, Hrin asked what kind of background check Stewart had done on Coleman, and McEachern immediately requested a bench conference. Self sent the jury out, and then allowed Hrin to proceed with his questioning. Stewart explained that Sergeant Jerry Massengill of the task force had made most of the inquiries, and he did not remember hearing that Massengill received any negative comments about Coleman. Hrin then asked if Stewart had learned any new information about Coleman subsequent to his hiring and the beginning of the investigation. Stewart replied that he had. “The new information that you have obtained, or learned, would you char 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 9, 2005