Tested: How Twelve Wrongly Imprisoned Men Held Onto Hope
Budd and Dorothy Budd
Brown Books Publishing Group
The plight of the wrongfully convicted is finally on the national radar screen, helped along by the miracle of DNA testing, groups that work on their behalf, and the willingness of state governmental officials to admit that there are serious flaws in the criminal justice system. While a number of articles and books have brought much needed attention to the problem, Tested is the first book to examine how the wrongfully convicted survived the hell of prison knowing that they are innocent.

The twelve innocent men featured in Tested have lost a total of 189 years, 68,985 days and 1, 655,640 hours in prison. They were imprisoned for a variety of crimes, including armed robbery, kidnapping and sexual assault. Most of them were convicted on the testimony of eyewitnesses who had wrongly identified them as the perpetrators. Eugene Hinton served the least amount of time, eighteen months; Johnnie Lindsey, the most, twenty-six years. All but one has been formally exonerated. They came from varying socioeconomic backgrounds, and several of them had criminal records prior to being wrongfully convicted. The men experienced the deaths of family members–several of them were denied the opportunity to attend the funerals of loved ones–and the collapse of marriages and other romantic relationships. They missed seeing their children grow up; they missed the dizzying changes that have taken place in American society in the last several decades. But to a man, they managed to hold onto their dignity and humanity, which makes their stories all the more compelling.

Those stories are wonderfully portrayed in their alliance with Dorothy Budd, a former prosecutor of child sex crimes for the District Attorney’s Office in Dallas county, Texas. Upon leaving the DA’s office she entered the seminary, earned a masters of divinity degree and was ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church. It was through her work in the mostly Latino parish served by the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas that she met Jalah Parker, a middle aged black women who was filled with hope at the election of a black DA who was working to exonerate prisoners who had been wrongfully convicted. Budd was intrigued and curious. What had sustained these men through this horrific experience? It took her four years, but she finally contacted DA Craig Watkins to find out. According to Budd, “Every man had a legal history impacted by race and class. Each had a chilling story of his life in prison. They endured years of anger and struggled to come to a place of forgiveness. All overcame incredible obstacles to gain their freedom, only to face other hurdles just as daunting after they were released. Yet for all the things they had in common, each man’s experience was unique.”

Tested is the perfect title for this small but vitally important book. Each of the men faced a number of challenges from arrest to conviction to incarceration to exoneration and afterward. They grappled mightily with their belief in the American justice system, their lives prior to incarceration and their religious faith or lack thereof. Upon gaining their freedom, they had to find a way to fit back into families and a society that had moved ahead while they were locked up. And yet the startling thing is that all of the men are remarkably free of bitterness and incredibly filled with love.

Peyton Budd, a poet and writer, joined her mother in writing the book, and Deborah Luster took the exquisite photographs of the men. But the book would not be the gem it is without the incredible generosity and grace of Johnnie Lindsey, Billy Smith, Steven Phillips, James Giles, Richard Miles, Entre Nax Karage, Christopher Scott, Thomas McGowan, Victor Thomas, Eugene Henton and Keith Turner–twelve of the many thousands of people who have been wrongfully convicted.


Dr. Marilyn K. Howard earned a BA in criminal Justice from Ohio Dominican College; an MA in political science from The Ohio State University (Thesis: The Entrance of Black Voters Into the Mississippi Electorate) and her PhD in American history from The Ohio State University (Dissertation: Black Lynching in the Promised Land: Mob Violence in Ohio 1876 - 1916). She was an associate professor in the Social Sciences department at Columbus State Community College, where she now holds the same position in the Department of Humanities. Dr. Howard has twice received the Distinguished Teaching Award from Columbus State, and was twice recognized as an outstanding staff member by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development. She was also named a top educator by Ohio magazine. Dr. Howard has served as an editor of the Southern Historian, a freelance book critic for the Columbus Dispatch and Ohioana Library. She has published essays in a number of anthologies, including the Encyclopedia of Racial Violence in America and the Encyclopedia of Jim Crow. She continues to conduct research on the lynching of black men by white mobs in Ohio.