Saturday, January 08, 2005


Lauri at Tres Chicas tells us "How to be a major drug trafficker and avoid decades in prison." It's easy, really.

Snitch. She writes:

This Austin American-Statesman article pretty much explains what drug policy reformers have argued all along -- that major traffickers routinely avoid decades-long prison sentences by snitching on their friends and associates. In this case, a major trafficker who was facing 21 years knocked his sentence down to 6.5 by ratting out folks to the feds. Often the bottom-tier dealers and mules who do the heavy lifting for these guys don't have any information to give to the feds, which costs them in the long run.
By comparison to that 6.5 years, some of the original, since-overturned sentences in the Tulia cases -- all charges for small quantities -- were for 40 years or more, in one case for more than 300 years. When you're low on the totem pole, or for that matter innocent, odds are you just don't know anybody to give up. In Palestine, TX, a Tulia-style drug task force rounded up 72 people, all black, and accused them of operating a "crack distribution ring" in that rural, 17,000 person town. How did they bust such a massive "ring" in tiny Palestine? After the local drug task force caught a mule delivering weight from Houston, they spent nearly two years rounding up low-level drug users instead of tracking the package back upstream. All but one of those cases are still pending; so far in Palestine, one defendant has pled guilty to delivering 1.23 grams of crack.

In 2001, Governor Perry signed into law a Texas statute that grew out of the debates over the wrongfully incarcerated innocents from drug stings in Tulia and Hearne. That law requires corroboration for testimony of confidential informants in undercover drug stings, but to my knowledge it has no counterpart in federal statutes, or in other states. ACLU, NAACP, LULAC, Tulia Friends of Justice and other advocates had pushed for the corroboration requirement to apply to undercover cops, too, like Tom Coleman, but although that version passed in the Texas House, it could not make it through the more conservative Senate.

In recent testimony to the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee, ACLU of Texas proposed requiring corroborating evidence for the testimony of jailhouse snitches as one of several possible reforms to stop the rash of convictions of innocent people.

UPDATE: More on snitching.

No comments: