Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Federal judge: 'Competent' evidence blacks targeted by Hearne task force

"Competent" evidence that blacks were targeted by a drug task force in Hearne, TX convinced a federal magistrate judge in Waco to rule in the plaintiff's favor in a summary judgement motion yesterday.

As in Tulia, the black community in Hearne was targeted by an unsavory drug task force in 2001, this time using a confidential informant rather than a bad undercover cop. ACLU sued when it became clear innocent people were being targeted. Also as in Tulia, folks in Hearne have been organizing to respond. (Hearne victims were among those testifying recently in the House to support abolishing drug task forces.) This ruling is heartening news, then, after a long wait, clearing the way, finally, to go to trial.

“Plaintiffs have repeatedly offered competent summary judgment evidence that African Americans were targeted on the basis of race,” the judge ruled. Moreover, "Plaintiffs’ specific allegations and summary judgment evidence concerning ... the coercion of [confidential informant Derrick] Megress raise material factual disputes that, if proven, would far surpass the bounds of negligence.”

So, barring a settlement, the case will be tried this summer. Go here for more background on the lawsuit. The South Central Texas Narcotics Task Force, which undertook the drug stings in Hearne, has since merged with the Agriplex task force in Waco. Just Robertson and Limestone counties, though, which were the only two counties in the South Central Texas task force, are liable for what happened in Hearne.

Regular readers may recall that this blog got caught up a bit in the Hearne lawsuit, with defendants representing the task force citing a Grits post in one of their rejected court motions. They thought I was speaking out of school about an earler ruling holding that all participating counties are liable when a drug task force engages in misconduct. Obviously, though, the judge disagreed.

This new ruling is great news! Congrats to the folks in Hearne and to the ACLU Drug Policy Litigation Project.

No comments: