The public interest in my son began as his celebrity status climbed, and reached its peak on his death and aftermath. These days we get a lot of help forming our instant opinions. The media provides us with packaged predigested prejudice so that we can carry on with our day, the decision made, the opinion set: “Oh, he was on drugs.” When it turns out there were no drugs, we say, “He was just crazy,” “He was just bad,” And we click on the next article or wait for the next joke.
Johnny’s final year is an alien fragment that refuses to align with the larger picture of his otherwise beautiful life. For his first 10,000 days on earth, he was the light and joy of the Lewis family, and millions of fans. His final 8,000 hours, roughly October 2011 through September 2012, was something misbegotten, an asteroid crashing from God knows where.
The simple answer — drugs-crazy — is wrong. To our knowledge, Johnny never tested positive the final year of his life. His final toxicology post-mortem confirmed that there were no drugs whatsoever in his system. That he experimented with drugs in the past is true — he had a prescription for medical marijuana — but he was drug-free for several months before his first arrest, and throughout that tattered year.
A little over two months before his first arrest Johnny was in a motorcycle accident and suffered head injuries. He should have gotten but didn’t receive an MRI. Shortly thereafter his thinking and his behavior became bizarre. In January he was pounded to a pulp around the face and head by a man twice his size. In prison he suffered additional head injuries from unclear causes. The prison doctors diagnosed him as having brain injuries and internal bleeding.
The symptoms of brain injury include sensitivity to light, unfocused eyes, illogical, sometimes violent behavior, inability to make decisions. Johnny had all of these. His sensitivity to light was such that he would prefer to sit in a room with all the lights out, illuminated by one candle.
Each and every psychiatrist and law enforcement official had this information about Johnny. They did not take this into account. They insisted that his problem was he was simply crazy and abused drugs. The cure for brain injury is complete and total rest for several months. Johnny never got that. Instead he was pushed and bullied through an insensitive and heartless justice system which does more harm than good.
Johnny was and is a bright light, and like too many bright lights his was extinguished prematurely by the misunderstanding and arrogance of those in authority.
My hope is that my postings will bring forth understanding and a measure of closure for those of you who had admired Johnny, followed him, and then were dismayed or bewildered at his end. I want a conversation to begin as a result of this blog that will, I hope, save others the useless horror that Johnny, his family and friends endured.
Thanks for reading,