October 7, 2010
Posted: 11:48 AM ET
This is an LKL Web Exclusive by Richard Miles, Keith Turner and Billy James Smith, three men wrongly convicted of crimes, and authors Peyton Budd and Rev. Dorothy Budd. The men's stories are chronicled in the new book "Tested: How Twelve Wrongfully Convicted Men Held onto Hope"!
By Richard Miles
My name is Richard Ray Miles and first and foremost I appreciate the opportunity to appear on the Larry King Show. It has always been a dream to have my 15 minutes of fame and what better way to embrace fame than with Mr. Larry King.
I was asked to write a small essay on the reality of false imprisonment and the things that I overcame while incarcerated. It is no secret now to the entire nation that people are Falsely Imprisoned. That is now a resounding truth, so there is no need to write on that topic. What I will do, is let you, the reader, know why the book Tested is important and a tool that any and everyone should get.
Prison is not just a physical location. Every day we witness someone in prison, whether it is a mental issue, emotional state of mind, financial insecurity or spiritual weakness. THOSE ARE ALL PRISONS. So there is a direct relation between our struggles and your everyday struggles. You never know the strength you have until you have been placed under the pressure that requires more than you feel you have. I had to realize who I was and I had to accept who God made me to be. Once I accomplished that, I began to see my strengths, use them, acknowledge my weaknesses and work on them, but all in the same instance, thank God for the trail I had to go through.
I can’t say that my situation was worse than the next person, nor can I say it was better, but what I will say is the determining factor in all our struggles is WHAT IS THE POSITION OF YOUR HEAD, meaning what are you looking for and at. That is what being truly TESTED is about.
by Peyton Budd
I’m sitting on the plane, flying to LAX, with my mother and six of the men from the book. We are all friends. We’re excited and nervous; we make jokes and fool around. But every now and then I am struck by an overwhelming sadness. For the majority of their adult lives, these men were locked in 8X9 foot cells, counting down the days of a sentence that was not really theirs. Years of knowing that the real perpetrator walked the streets, knowing that family members were growing up and changing, and wondering if anybody really believed the truth.
Flying scares me. During this three hour flight, I am counting down the minutes with a strange, internal mixture of boredom and terror. Three hours seems like forever, but what about three years, thirteen years, more.
The book Tested tells the story of twelve men who suffered the horrors and injustice of wrongful conviction. It goes past the surface, past the news story and asks the questions: How did you survive? What really got you through this experience? In the answers to these questions we found stories that made us angry, stories that made us laugh, and stories that made us cry. Beyond the tragedy of wrongful conviction, there are amazing men full of hope and resilience who have taught me to take nothing for granted and live every moment with conviction and integrity. I think the book portrays these men and their stories in a way that can help us all cope with the many tests of our lives and come out better for it on the other side. After decades of silence, these men deserve to be heard. For more about the book visitwww.testedthebook.com.
By Rev. Dorothy Budd
When this project began six months ago I never thought I would be flying with my daughter Peyton and seven exonerated men across the country to appear on Larry King Live. I began this project intrigued as a former Dallas County prosecutor with what their stories would reveal about our legal system and compelled as deacon in the Episcopal Church to pay special attention to the voice of these men who might otherwise never be heard.
I expected to come to see the legal system through a different set of eyes and I have. I thought I would learn harsh truths about the realities of life inside the Texas penal system and I did. I anticipated that I would hear stories of hope faith and patient endurance and I did. What I never expected was that these 12 men would teach me so much about how to live in such a way that my own life became richer and more meaningful. With my law degree and Masters in Divinity I did not foresee that men whose education’s had been cut short and whose lives had been drastically confined would become not only my friends, but also my teachers. Their unexpected stories of using their inner strengths and talents to overcome trials that would slowly crush the life out of most people taught me strategies for living that I know I will call on and draw strength from time and time again throughout the rest of my life. To learn more about these amazing men visit www.testedthebook.com. The men you will meet there and the things you will learn from them will surprise you.
by Keith Turner:
My mother was my Guidance, my strength, and she told me how to read, drive, cook, sew, and she told me how to be a man and to believe what’s right and she believed in me to the end. She was the best mother I could have ever had because she was a strong woman of hope, faith, who never gave up, and believed that there was nothing that couldn’t be done. She knew to always fight for what was right. The guidance that she gave me made me a better man today. I think what happened to me when I was falsely accused and wrongfully convicted of rape destroyed her deeply inside to the point that she died. Her strength gives me hope and faith to fight for my rights and that is why I am a blessed man today. I thank her for being my mother to the end.
by Billy James Smith:
In 1986, August 1st I was arrested for sexual assault of a black female. Someone I had never met or greeted. Never did I think I would be sentenced to serve a life sentence for a crime I did not commit. I could never have imagined that this would be the beginning of a test unlike any test I had ever been tested with before. It turned out to be the greatest testimonial I have ever been a part of.
No one can survive a prison sentence and serve 19 years, 11 moths and not suffer physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and come out not having been affected. Today when people talk about the wrongfully convicted they ask more about compensation than about my mental and physical well being. When I was in prison did you know that caring about wealth and possessions or my lack of them was never a part of my test. I was being tested in my talents, knowledge, opportunities, and even their opposites.
Everything that changed about me and my personality and conduct today came from how successful I was in holding on to the faith I gained from the hope that was buried deep inside of me. Only a living God could have given me the will to live and survive. Even today through all that I’ve been through or continue to go through, God is not through with me yet. But through it all so far, through all of this my Justice will come through in the way I move on with my life.
Looking back at my wrongful conviction, looking back at the accusation, the lie, the misidentification that led to my conviction…it all causes me mental exhaustion. I was ready to give up on life and end it all. No one should contemplate suicide even when you know that you didn’t do it. Why did I? Because no matter which way I turned, it turned with me. No matter how hard or how fast I tried to out run it, at the time I was most afraid, it followed me. You see that’s the way evil is. It just follows you. The solace I found to deal with this evil and get it off of me was when I gave my suffering, my sickness, my pain to the Almighty God. I was only able to give up anger and hate and rage through the serenity I found in the faith and hope I have today. I just have one question. I was glad to get out, I was very happy to get out, but I was not excited to get out. Can anyone tell me why? I wasn’t excited to get out. Please someone. Please tell me. Please tell me. Please help me stop crying inside. I have not finished crying yet.
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