Reverend Dorothy Budd rejoiced at the recent announcement that deaf inmate Stephen Brodie may become the latest Texas prisoner to win his freedom after being wrongfully convicted.Relatedly, the Lubbock Avalanche Journal brings word of a new book on Timothy Cole's posthumous exoneration: Fred McKinley's “A Plea For Justice: The Timothy Cole Story.” From the Avalanche Journal:
Budd, a former child-sex-crimes prosecutor for the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, wants the voice of Brodie, along with men who have already been exonerated in Dallas County, to be heard. She and her daughter Peyton share the men’s experiences in the upcoming book Tested: How Twelve Wrongfully Imprisoned Men Held onto Hope, to be published this October by Brown Books Publishing Group.
In 2009, the Budds became interested in the plight of these wrongly convicted men and requested a meeting with Dallas County DA Craig Watkins where they learned that of the cases his office selected with DNA viable for testing, about half of the tests went on to prove the men’s innocence. Dorothy and Peyton became convinced that their stories must be told. With DA Watkins’ assistance, the Budds interviewed the men and from these conversations Peyton wrote their stories and the book Tested was born.
“Every one of these men has lost something that can never be restored,” said Dorothy Budd. “We hope that the powerful stories in Tested cause readers to reexamine and reevaluate prejudices and preconceptions.”
By allowing each of the men to tell his story in his own words, Tested runs the emotional gamut from deep despair to final vindication. Along the way, the authors discovered how the men kept their faith and hope during their years of incarceration.
“When you get convicted for something you didn’t do, and hear that gavel hit along with the words ‘we find this man guilty,’ and you do time,” says exoneree Billy Smith. “Whether it’s a day, a week, a year, or twenty years…that takes something. It takes a bite out of you.”
Dallas leads the nation in exonerations of wrongfully convicted men. To date, more than twenty men have been released. These men were not just “released” but freed from prison with their convictions expunged, with a pardon from the governor and an apology from the DA.
For more information and to schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Cathy Williams, Brown Books Publishing Group at 972.381.0009 or via email cathy(dot)williams(at)brownbooks(dot)com. Additional information can be found at www.testedthebook.com.
Cole's brother Cory Session said the book should be required reading for law officials to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.One should never underestimate the impact of storytelling, and these stories supply a powerful counternarrative to the typical Law & Order-style portrayal of prosecutors in white hats and criminal defendants as scum seeking to somehow wiggle out of justice. The Kafkaesque nightmare endured by Cole and the other exonerees can't be adequately described using the terms and means of the policy wonk, so these stories fill an important gap in the debate. It's impossible to fix a problem if one never examines in detail what went wrong.
"This book was put out because it's a blueprint for wrongful convictions," he said.
Ruby Session, Cole's mother, said the book is an accurate portrayal of the situation that occurred to her son and provides readers with an opportunity to see how all of the events unfolded from the beginning.
"I hope the average person knows it could happen to them," Ruby Session said. "We don't want this to happen anymore."