“No More Tulias: Drug Law Enforcement Evidentiary Standards” Pizza and Movie Briefing
The afternoon will feature an introduction of the "No More Tulias: Drug Law Enforcement Evidentiary Standards Improvement Act of 2005" by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a showing of "Hearne, Texas: Scenes from the Drug War," narrated by Julian Bond, and the 60 Minutes segment on Tulia, Texas. Discussion, questions & answers will follow.

May 23, 2005

“No More Tulias: Drug Law Enforcement Evidentiary Standards” Pizza and Movie Briefing

Wednesday, May 25th, 1:45-2:45
2325 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C.

Public Safety, Sentencing and Incarceration Reform Caucus
of the
U.S. House of Representatives

 

┬áThe Congressional Caucus on Public Safety, Sentencing and Incarceration Reform and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee invite you to a briefing announcing the introduction of the “No More Tulia’s: Drug Law Enforcement Evidentiary Standards Improvement Act of 2005” on May 25. The bill would increase the evidentiary standard required to convict a person for a drug offense and require screening of law enforcement officers or others who would act under color of law and participate in drug task forces. The introduction of this legislation follows a bipartisan forum the Caucus held last month covering a range of viewpoints on the effectiveness of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which provides millions of dollars each year to local and state agencies for crime prevention initiatives, including fighting the war on drugs. In recent years, however, the program has come under criticism for its role in perpetuating racial disparities, police corruption, and civil rights abuses across the country.

The most well-known Byrne-funded task force scandal occurred in Tulia, Texas, where dozens of African American residents were arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced to decades in prison based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of one undercover officer whose background included past allegations of misconduct, sexual harassment, unpaid debts and habitual use of a racial epithet. Although the Texas Governor eventually pardoned the Tulia defendants, these kinds of scandals continue to plague Byrne grant program spending

Most recently, a federal magistrate judge found that there was enough evidence that a Byrne-funded task force in Hearne, Texas had routinely targeted innocent African Americans, clearing the way for the case to go to trial. On the eve of the trial the counties involved in the Hearne task force scandal settled the case, agreeing to pay financial damages to the plaintiffs. Allegations in the Hearne case included that the arrests were racially motivated and that the confidential informant used by the South Central Texas Regional Narcotics Task Force was unreliable, poorly supervised, and fabricated evidence.

Simultaneous to the introduction of the “No More Tulia’s Act,” a group of fifty national, state and local organizations will forward a letter to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, reminding him of his two-year old unfulfilled pledge to hold a formal Judiciary Committee hearing on the causes of the abuses in Tulia and of his commitment to “initiate active and aggressive oversight of the federal task force” responsible for hiring the undercover officer in Tulia. The group of fifty expressed that “the introduction of this bill represents the perfect opportunity for the expeditious scheduling of the promised Judiciary Committee hearing.”

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