It took 21 years and an illegal act of conscience by an Arcadian before James Richardson, a black man, was exonerated of the death of his seven children.
Richardson’s story, and the story of the community that imprisoned him, will be told again Wednesday with the showing of the 2015 documentary “Time Simply Passes,” at 6 p.m. at the Mid-County Library on Forrest Nelson Boulevard.
Filmmaker Ty Flowers will be on hand for the showing. The Florida native worked on the film with his father, a former reporter with the Miami Herald.
Charlotte County librarian and actor Bill MacDonald said he watched the film about nine months ago and was so impressed, he invited the filmmaker to show his movie here.
The story is a tragic one with some redemption, but no completely happy ending. That is why Flowers told a University of South Florida professor he gave the film its title, and not something like “Free at Last.”
Richardson was a poor farm worker living in Arcadia in 1967 when his children were all poisoned with a farm pesticide. Local law enforcement quickly named Richardson as the killer, because Richardson volunteered that he had just bought a life insurance policy on his children. Those same officials withheld evidence that he had no policy and also evidence implicating the family’s babysitter. She had fed the children their poisoned lunch.
It was a local man, Remus Griffin, now dead, who stole that evidence back in 1979, leading to Richardson’s release in 1988.
Flowers has said his film is an indictment not just of racism, but of the treatment of the poor, and of abuse of power by local officials.
The film was shown in Arcadia last year for the first time in its native setting. Flowers was present. It was shown in Fort Myers in 2015.
Richardson came back to Arcadia for the first time in 2013. He was last reported to be living in Wichita, Kansas with health issues.
Flowers is a documentary filmmaker, video artist and musician. He grew up in Fort Lauderdale and attended the University of Florida in Gainesville. He has shot and edited television programs for The History Channel, Science, National Geographic (Natgeo), Discovery, A&E and the Travel Channel. Time Simply Passes is his first feature film.