One of the firm's proud public interest moments occurred in the past several years. Under the leadership of partner, Ted Killory, a team of firm lawyers, working with co-counsel, helped overturn the unjust convictions of more than 10 percent of the African-American residents of the small town of Tulia, Texas. A book has just been published about that entire sad but ultimately triumphant story: Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town by Nate Blakeslee. The New York Times recently included the book on its list of “100 Notable Books of 2005.” In a chapter labeled “The Dream Team” and elsewhere, the book provides a detailed account of the firm's, and especially Mr. Killory's, contributions to that dramatic courtroom success, including his effective cross-examination of key witnesses, his very tough and ultimately successful negotiation tactics, and his inspired courtroom presentation at the hearing at which the Tulia defendants were then set free.
In the summer of 1999, in the tiny west Texas town of Tulia, forty-seven people, most of them black, were arrested and charged with dealing powdered cocaine. The operation, a federally-funded investigation performed in cooperation with the local authorities, was based on the work of one notoriously unreliable undercover officer. At trial, the prosecution relied almost solely on the uncorroborated, and contradictory, testimony of that officer, Tom Coleman. Despite the flimsiness of the evidence against them, virtually all of the defendants were convicted and given sentences as high as ninety-nine years. Tom Coleman was named a Texas Lawman of the Year for his work.
Tulia is the story of this town, the bust, the trials, and the heroic legal battle that ultimately led to the reversal of the convictions in the summer of 2003. Laws have been changed in Texas as a result of the scandal, and the defendants have earned a measure of bittersweet redemption. But the story is much bigger than the tale of just one bust. As Tulia makes clear, these events are the latest chapter in a story with themes as old as the country itself. It is a gripping, marvelously well-told tale about injustice, race, poverty, hysteria, and desperation in rural America.
To read more about Tulia, click here.