Armed with an empty whiskey bottle and wearing a tie-dyed Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, Florida State University dropout Marshall Ledbetter broke into the Florida State Capitol early one morning in June 1991. He occupied the Sergeant of Arms suite, demanding an extra-large Gumby's pizza and 666 donuts for the cops waiting outside. He hoped to garner media attention for his protest of poverty, homelessness, and cuts to higher education. After an eight hour standoff, Ledbetter was betrayed by the very media he had counted on to tell his story; his demands were t broadcast on CNN as he had been promised but streamed into the office on closed-circuit TV. Although he left the building peacefully, the ensuing trial, his trips in and out of the state's mental health institutions over the following decade, and his eventual suicide in 2003 speak to how difficult it is to untangle addiction, isolation, brilliance, and deviance. Ledbetter's invasion of the Capitol remains the biggest security breach of the building's history, but Daniel Harrison's telling of the Ledbetter saga is about more than one misguided young man's breaking and entering into the state's most secure building. Making Sense of Marshall Ledbetter thoughtfully and honestly explores the ways society manages deviant people in real world situations and whether or t our law enforcement and justice systems are adequately equipped to handle mental illness.
Daniel Harrison is associate professor of sociology at Lander University, USA.