Darrell Cannon, Rip Van Winkle and Questions of Accountability

After spending 24 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Darrell Cannon became a free man, only to find his world completely changed. Despite being tortured and wrongfully imprisoned, Cannon was most upset about having lost many of his loved ones. “I lost everything,” he said, choking back on his tears. He had just recently put his sister to rest. It was as if Darrell Cannon had slept through a nightmare and woke up to find himself living through an actual nightmare. How would one react in this situation? With sadness? With anger? Cannon expressed both. And I would be lying if I didn’t say I expected him to forgive his torturers. But thinking back on his experiences now, I realize I was in the wrong in expecting him to be forgiving. He wasn’t in a deep slumber. He was beaten; severely enough to confess to something he did not do. And for taking the fall for someone else, he was imprisoned for 24 years, 9 of them served in a place where he felt insanity was imminent. Cannon lost everything; the people he loved are gone, and he can’t ever get them back.

What really struck me during Darrell’s lecture was the issue of accountability. Here’s the definition from Merriam-Webster:

the quality or state of being accountable ; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions <public officials lacking accountability>

We talked about accountability when we discussed the death of Timothy Souders in a Michigan correctional facility. Who was accountable for his death? Nobody was held accountable, and nobody took the responsibility for his death.

It’s pretty clear who was mostly accountable for the torture Darrell and others like him experienced. Or is it? Continue reading