Stolen Life

There’s a story in the latest issue of Esquire magazine that touched me deeply. It’s the current issue – as I’m writing this – that has Liam Neeson on the cover pointing at you with a look on his face that seems to say, “kiss my ass”.

It's not polite to point!
Kiss it!

This issue is chock-full of great articles and interviews, the one featuring Neeson is pretty good, though the author, having an issue with time continuity, does have a weird way of phrasing things and I had to read some paragraphs a couple of times over to make sure I was getting what he was trying to say.
Liam is interesting and I like him as an actor and have since I saw him in Krull when I was a child. In the article he seemed to have a hard time talking about his late wife Natasha Richardson which is completely understandable. She was a good actress that brought something different to the films she was in, like Neeson himself (and I honestly think I saw her in person when my wife and I were having dinner with a couple of friends at a very overpriced and overrated Taco joint near an Angelika theater. We have no idea if it was really her since we assume celebs don’t like to be pestered by the common public and, above all else, why in the heck she would be there of all places – with some guy I could only guess was an agent – but it’s one of those things I’ll hold on to and always wonder).

The article made me sad, definitely because we lost a star but also because I am a human and a husband and the last thing I want is to lose my wife to death. I would rather screw up and have her leave me and know that she’s still alive than have her die. It’s happened before and I don’t prefer it.

But as touching as that article was it didn’t quite compare to the story that you won’t find listed as a “must-read” on Esquire’s website – even if you search for it (I tried!) – about Raymond D. Towler, entitled “The Someone You’re Not“. **Update – I did find the Towler article when I searched for images. You can read the article by Mike Sager by clicking the article title above.

[If you want to read The Hard Luck and Beautiful Life of Liam Neeson click here!]

Raymond’s story struck a familiar nerve with me as a person who has been wrongly accused – for the ease of blame placement – more than I’d like. The problem is that Towler was, according to the article, accused of child molestation/rape and the poor guy was nowhere around when it happened. It was, at the very least, a case of racial profiling. Yeah I said it! He was around 24 years old when sentenced and spent nearly 30 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The man had to live every single day in several different correctional facilities under the stigma of child molestation. How sick is that?

The reason he was there, as the article suggests, was in no small part due to legal incompetence combined with the drive and push that the Judge and Assistant Prosecutor appeared to have to get the trial over in a way that worked for them.

But here’s the thing that got me after reading it all: Towler isn’t all festering and pissed off about it. Sure, he’s “a little mad” but he’s just happy to be out of there. That’s nearly 30 years of an innocent person’s life; you can’t pay a man enough to fix that sort of thing, but it would be a nice start. He had to endure watching people come and go, either being transferred or dying all through the years most people, like you and I, just piss away doing nothing but worrying about the next time we get to eat at McDonald’s. The only time he was able to get out for a moment was when he attended his mother’s funeral in ’84. Even then he was in shackles.

On another positive side he’s a very talented guy. As an artist and a musician he was able to do things other inmates really couldn’t. He even took some classes in various vocations, got his GED as well as an Associate degree and could have gone further if there was proper funding. Needless to say I thought it was the best real-life Shawshank Redemption story ever! But unlike that story he didn’t have to tunnel through the walls and swim through crap; he just had to be patient and put up with crap. Kinda.

Can I relate to this man? In some ways yes and that’s why I thought it was something worth posting about. But unlike him I don’t think I would have been strong enough to have lasted all those years incarcerated for something I didn’t do. Of all the things I’ve been falsely accused of I still keep some anger and hurt over it all – I even have doubts sometimes as to whether I did them or not – and they’re on a scale that doesn’t even compare to the crap this man had to put up with. Through it all it makes you wonder what the justice system is really about. I can’t help thinking that there is something wrong with the system and I know that’s not an original idea. It’s guilty until proven innocent and that’s pretty scary.

Who knows what Raymond Towler could have done or what he would have been if the justice system was a little more justice than system; if it actually had hard evidence other than the testimony of a scared little child that probably thought all black people looked the same or a prosecutor and a judge that wasn’t out for… who knows what really.

I don’t want to assume anything and throw the “race” card out there but more often than not that seems to be the real case. It’s sad.

Sure, I have my misgivings about people who use the word “racist” to somehow get ahead in life, especially the people who already have everything but seem to think it will help them even more. I don’t know how it works that they can use a word to get power over you but I do know it sucks when people think you’re something that you’re not.

Mr. Towler is in his 50’s and was one of the many people released in 2010 because of DNA testing. I think that is amazing. I’ve never been in prison but something tells me it’s not a place I’d like to be, I don’t even know if I want to visit. I’ve seen the inside of a holding facility and that’s all I care to see.

If you’re interested in reading an actual article about Raymond Towler check out this one from Cincinnati Magazine entitled “The Correction“.

-VR

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