Bloggers Unite: A wonderful life
“Life was his sentence,” defense attorney Contance Griffiths (Brooke Langton) says of exonerated client Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis) on NBC’s “Life.” “And life was what he got back.”
But fans of the drama â€” which returns this fall in the 10 p.m. Friday time slot, where it has the potential to become the Peacock Network’s “House” â€” have to ask themselves, What kind of life is it?
As we commemorate Human Rights’ Day, we’re regularly confronted on the news with real-life Charlies â€” men, and women, who’ve serious time for serious crimes they didn’t commit and who were finally exonerated thanks to the new forensics technology. (My favorite recently was Cynthia Sommer, who was convicted of poisoning her Marine hubby, basically because she slept around and got a boob job with the insurance money after he was gone. The case is known on the Web as the Boob Job Murder. Hey, just because you act like a hussy doesn’t make you a killer.)
I don’t have to tell you that few of the exonerated get the sweetheart deal Charlie did â€” a $50 million settlement from the Los Angeles Police Department, where he was a uniformed officer, plus his job back with an upgrade to detective, and all that $50 million can buy â€” the mansion, the orange grove, the parade of cool, soon-to-be-discarded cars and cool, equally disposable girlfriends. Then there’s the also-beautiful, also-damaged partner; the sympathetic roomie; the eager stepmom-to-be; the tough but fair-minded boss; the guilt-ridden ex-partner. Sounds like a solid support system, right? This is, after all, TV.
But the truth is Charlie lost the life he knewâ€” the lovely wife he had, the children he might’ve. Indeed, he is not the man he used to be, no man could be after being so brutalized.
So he’s lost himself, or at least the self he was before prison, and one thing more: He’s lost time, 12 years. The question then becomes, How much money could possibly make up for that? Fifty mill is both too little and too much.
It seems to me that from a practical standpoint, the state owes the exonerated some sort of substantial compensation, since these people, through no fault of their own, will probably have trouble returning to the work force. In this, there might be the kind of sliding scale that insurance companies establish for accidents â€” so much for so many years.
But money can never compensate for the gaping holes in the exonerated’s biography â€” the relationships altered; the weddings, funerals and graduations missed. And that sense of the unbridgeable leads understandably to bitterness and anger. The irony of “Life” is that the Charlie Crews who emerges from prison really is capable of committing murder. He’s filled with rage at what was done to him and all his Zen-spouting, fruit-chomping and bimbo-chasing is just a way to beat down the beast within.
In such a state, platitudes about forgiveness are meaningless, and yet, genuine forgiveness is precisely what the Charlies of the world need, because it’s the only thing that’s going to set them free.
It would help if the state asked forgiveness of those it has wronged. But more important, the wronged must forgive the state. At the end of this strike-shortened season, Charlie was moving in that direction when he asked the wife who abandoned him in prison nonetheless to forgive him. He recognized that they were both very young when they married, and that she did not have his strength for adversity.
“You’re never going to be like anyone else,” Charlie tells a victim of sexual abuse in another episode.
As Charlie knows, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a life.
Photo courtesy of NBC.