Unaware of the danger lurking on the periphery of the French Quarter, Drs. Ronald Banks and John Hakola made a tragic decision on the evening of April 29, 1979, to walk several blocks from the historic district to the Hyatt Regency. Inches from the safety of their hotel, they were accosted by two young men—a scuffle ensued, a shot was fired, and Dr. Banks lay dead on the sidewalk. Fighting Time is a tale of two families whose lives became entangled in that moment of trauma.
Isaac Knapper, a sixteen-year-old boy from a nearby housing project, was wrongfully convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. In Maine, the Banks family believed justice had been served by Isaac’s conviction, and his exoneration in 1992 unleashed a sea of confusion and grief. In 2015, Dr. Banks’ daughter, Amy, a psychiatrist and trauma specialist, realized it was time to unpack her own family trauma. After learning details of the prosecutorial misconduct, Amy and her sister, Nancy, traveled to New Orleans to meet the man wrongfully convicted of killing their father.
In Fighting Time Isaac Knapper and Amy Banks narrate the story of their thirty-six-year journey from murder to meeting with clarity, humility, and vulnerability.
Praise for Fighting Time
“Amy Banks and Issac Knapper heartbreakingly tell their stories of two families, whose lives intersect one night in April 1979 and unfold a series of events that reshaped their lives forever. Blended together, much like a catastrophic earthquake, they spend the next three decades trying to find anything salvageable from their former lives. Fighting Time is not just a book about the injustice of a wrongful conviction, but a love story of the capacity of human beings to find power in the pain and healing in the harm.”
-Jennifer Thompson, co-author of the best selling Picking Cotton
“Fighting Time is a brave and necessary book. It is a book that pushes the reader beyond thin and familiar abstractions about social justice and systemic oppression. In this book, Dr. Amy Banks and Mr. Isaac Knapper put flesh and bone and spirit onto institutional practices and social behaviors designed to lock inequalities in place, thus perpetuating the chronic disconnections that corrode the human spirit. There are some books that make it impossible to “not know.” Fighting Time is such a book. One enters into the book and is confronted with questions that can only be answered by radical engagement with the life of those we call Other and by confronting the illusions and denials that comprise what is called Self. The reward is a renewed claim on human dignity, a strengthened commitment to social justice, and perhaps a revisioning of human possibility.”
-Maureen Walker PhD, author of When Getting Along is Not Enough: Reconstructing Race in Our Lives and Relationships (2019, Teacher’s College Press)
“Racial inequalities permeate every aspect of our culture and Fighting Time reminds us how those inequities affect our perspectives, experiences, and life outcomes. It reflects how little has changed when it comes to the treatment of our most underserved and vulnerable populations and how grief and loss can bring divided communities and people together. Fighting Time reminds the reader of the importance of seeing past zip code, skin color, education and age, factors our unjust systems are created to reward or punish. In this book, Banks and Knapper tell the story of two grieving families who both lost so much but through their unique connection and storytelling have healed not only themselves but their community. This book will challenge its readers to see the justice system with a deeper understanding and a greater sensitivity to its inherent inequities. Fighting Time will inspire its readers to build a movement of connection, forgiveness and change.”
-Inderjit (Vicky) Basra, President/CEO of Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, Jacksonville, FL
“This is an incredible story, a memoir of trauma in two voices, each wounded, each courageous, and each inviting us into a story of healing and recovery. This book is a deep dive into the worlds of mental health and social justice that demonstrates their inseparable connection.”
-Anne Hallward MD, Host of Safe Space Radio
“Fighting Time is a profound, sometimes shocking but beautifully poignant story about two teens on the cusp of their lives, who are tragically affected by a random violent act. Amy Banks and Isaac Knapper are brutally honest and boldly vulnerable as they describe the far-reaching ripple effects of their trauma, showing us how a singular event can profoundly change the trajectory of one’s life. Decades later, after an unusual turn of events, this unlikely pair is brought together by a force larger than them, teaching us all how resilience, persistence, sheer will, and a loving connection can help transform us, heal our pain, and find lasting peace from the unspeakable. Having known Amy for over thirty years, my heart is bursting with pride for her and Isaac. They have joined forces to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that truth, love, and the tenacity of the human spirit conquers all.”
– Frank G. Anderson, MD, author of Transcending Trauma: Healing Complex PTSD with Internal Family Systems Therapy
“Contemporary commentary, studies, and data about criminal legal processes and practices in this country emphasize the importance and severity of collateral consequences for justice-involved people. Fighting Time complements and expands that narrative by weaving together compelling perspectives that lay bare the impacts and consequences of the improper use of discretion, power, and decision-making in front-end criminal legal decisions, coupled with the lack of strong, reliable reentry systems on the back end. Fighting Time makes clear that our unexamined criminal legal systems don’t just cage the innocent, but they also further injustice, and create and exacerbate additional trauma for the accused, for crime victims, and families all. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the purpose and utility of our carceral systems, exploring the cascading effects of trauma on behavior, and anyone doing the work of critically investigating systems to reimagine safety, justice, [human] connection, reconciliation, and the wholeness of the human condition.”
-Kenitra Brown, Director of Engagement & Staff Attorney, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center, SMU Dedman School of Law, Founding Board Member- Power in Action-Dallas