Tuesday, August 30, 2011


The following appeared as a post on my good friend Randy Mayeux's blog pageTested:  How Twelve Wrongly Imprisoned Men Held Onto Hope  was written by a long time supporter of CitySquare.  I hope my post will encourage you to buy a copy and read!  CitySquare has been involved with many of those exonerated here in Dallas County and we continue that involvement. 

I have just finished reading each and every word of the book Tested: How Twelve Wrongly Imprisoned Men Held Onto Hope by Peyton Budd in collaboration with Dorothy Budd — Photographs by Deborah Luster. (Published by Brown Books Publishing Group in Dallas). I say it this way to make a point – though I thoroughly read the books that I present, at times I have to move through the text pretty fast. This one was one to read slowly – and I did.

It chronicles the stories of some men who sat in prison, some for decades, while innocent of the crimes they were sent to prison for. They were wrongfully accused, wrongfully convicted, wrongfully imprisoned. There is now no doubt of the wrongfulness of their convictions. They have been exonerated. The courts admit the wrongful convictions. They are now free.

But, of course, they will never be free. As exoneree Eugene Hinton put it: “There are no psychiatrists who’ve done twenty years in prison for a crime they did not commit, so they really couldn’t offer me a solution.”

The book is written by mother and daughter writing team Peyton Budd and Dorothy Budd. Here’s Peyton’s observation:

These men changed me.

I am a different person now, a better person, for having the chance to know them and tell their stories. Every moment I spent with them altered my view of the world and demonstrated the resilience of the human spirit. They also taught me that our judicial system is broken and must be fixed.

And then, this sad note:

Countless, unimaginable numbers of innocent people still sit in prison and will never be freed.

This must stop.

I frequently share insight on this blog from books I have read. Occasionally, I strongly suggest that you read the book yourself. I do so with this book. It will make you sad, yet hopeful, all at the same time. It will do your heart good. It did mine.


Anonymous said...

These are, of course, horrible injustices. And please don't take what I say as excusing even one wrongful conviction. But it seems like as long as any system - of justice or anything else - is human, you will have human error. Are there specific proposals out there to make the system better? If so, how do they overcome this basic limitation - that people (including witnesses) make mistakes?

Larry James said...

Anon 10:24, thanks for the comment. Surely all of our systems are limited and affected by human frailties. That said, it is clear that Texas has a track record of rushing to judgment without due care. While we will never be perfect, we can do better than we are now. Better representation for the accused, more sensitive investigators and prosecutors and the application of all advanced evidence gathering techniques are places to begin. The way to overcome eyewitness error is to admit that it is not as significant as we think it is and weight it accordingly. We have far too many people locked up in this state. And, we undoubtedly have executed innocent people--I refer you to recent case of man executed inn an arson case based on faulty science. Should have been overturned but governor failed to do so even with benefit of expert advice to contrary. We can't rest because it is hard or because we recognize our limitations.

belinda said...

of course there will always be mistakes, but i am reminded of "it's better to let one guilty man go free than to wrongly convict an innocent one" or something like that. the part i have the most problem wrapping my arms around is when there IS evidence to refute the guilty verdict, and a judge or governor decides not to hear it.