Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn't commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship--and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer's coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice. Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction - Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction - Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award - Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize - Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize - An American Library Association Notable Book "Every bit as moving as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so . . . a searing indictment of American criminal justice and a stirring testament to the salvation that fighting for the vulnerable sometimes yields."--David Cole, The New York Review of Books "Searing, moving . . . Bryan Stevenson may, indeed, be America's Mandela."--Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times "You don't have to read too long to start cheering for this man. . . . The message of this book . . . is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. Just Mercy will make you upset and it will make you hopeful."--Ted Conover, The New York Times Book Review "Inspiring . . . a work of style, substance and clarity . . . Stevenson is not only a great lawyer, he's also a gifted writer and storyteller."--The Washington Post "As deeply moving, poignant and powerful a book as has been, and maybe ever can be, written about the death penalty."--The Financial Times "Brilliant."--The Philadelphia Inquirer "Not since Atticus Finch has a fearless and committed lawyer made such a difference in the American South. Though larger than life, Atticus exists only in fiction. Bryan Stevenson, however, is very much alive and doing God's work fighting for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope. Just Mercy is his inspiring and powerful story."--John Grisham "Bryan Stevenson is one of my personal heroes, perhaps the most inspiring and influential crusader for justice alive today, and Just Mercy is extraordinary. The stories told within these pages hold the potential to transform what we think we mean when we talk about justice."--Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
- ISBN-13: 9780812994520
- ISBN-10: 0812994523
- Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
- Publish Date: October 2014
- Page Count: 336
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.45 pounds
A case against death row
Bryan Stevenson was fresh out of Harvard Law School when he embraced—first in Georgia, then in Alabama—the mission of defending death row inmates and others facing undeserved or disproportionate prison sentences. An African American from a poor family in Delaware, Stevenson accepts as a starting point the maxim, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
In Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, he builds his case against the flaws of America’s judicial system by clustering his observations around the case of Walter McMillian, a black man who first drew community ire by having an affair with a married white woman. Subsequently, a drug dealer who associated with the same woman, in an attempt to lessen his own jail time, told authorities that McMillian had killed a local college girl. The dealer’s ever-changing testimony was transparently false from the outset, but eager to close the case, the authorities arrested McMillian for murder, a jury with only one black member convicted him and a judge sentenced him to death. In succeeding chapters, Stevenson describes his struggles to exonerate McMillian.
His primary adversaries are deep-seated racism, tough-on-crime politicians, ambitious prosecutors, by-the-book judges, incompetent for-hire “expert” witnesses, a Supreme Court more interested in judicial expediency than actual justice, the rise of the victims’ rights movement (which recognizes only the initial victims of crimes), the burgeoning private prison lobby and the “good Germans” among us who piously avert our eyes as we go about our daily business.
Although Stevenson writes in a calm, deliberate style, there are passages here so harrowing and outrage-provoking that sensitive readers may need to set the book aside periodically until they can clear their minds of the foul images it conjures up. Anyone animated by a modicum of fairness will recognize Just Mercy as a de facto call to arms.