Just Mercy

Just Mercy

A Story of Justice and Redemption

Book - 2014 | First edition
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The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama recounts his experiences as a lawyer working to assist those desperately in need, reflecting on his pursuit of the ideal of compassion in American justice.
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, [2014]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780812994520
0812994523
Branch Call Number: B STEVENSON
Characteristics: x, 336 pages ; 25 cm

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d
delphimo
Mar 06, 2021

Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, outlines the racial injustice in Monroeville, Alabama. Bryan Stevenson hammers home that racial injustice in the legal arena in his novel, Just Mercy. So much inequality in the justice for African Americans, Hispanics, and the poor. I was dismayed to learn the plight of children sent to adult court for minor crimes and then forced into adult prisons for a life sentence and no chance of parole. Another area bothered me, the handling of girls and young women sent to prison for the death of a stillborn baby. These poor females could not afford healthcare and when the baby dies, they are saddled with the blame. The majority of the book focuses on Walter McMillian, an African American, arrested, charged, and sent to death row for the murder of a white woman. Walter was at home with friends and family when the murder took place, but the white police, lawyers, and judge convicted Walter, never really investigating the crime. After 6 years on death row, Walter was released due to the persistent work of Bryan Stevenson, his lawyer. Stevenson was also responsible for getting Anthony Ray Hinton released from death row after 30 years for a crime he did not commit. Again, Anthony was in a locked job site with other employees and could not have committed the murder. Unequal justice does not rest only in Alabama, but in the majority of Southern states and even in California. Many changes have been made in the judicial system, but still more legislation must be passed.

k
KellyReader
Feb 24, 2021

What a remarkable book. Everyone should read it.

p
PLPeggo
Feb 20, 2021

Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong? What a foolish notion, war is called devotion, when the greatest warriors are the ones who stand for peace. Holy Near, singer, songwriter. True honesty in those words.

s
sjanke2
Jan 30, 2021

I'll be honest: I've been avoiding this book for years. I, a white woman, who knows zero incarcerated people, was too scared to read about the death penalty.

Luckily, Jan selected this book for book club, and I downloaded the audiobook. I've heard this book is fantastic in all formats, but hearing Bryan Stevenson narrate these trials of injustice made my chest tight and my eyes damp.

I'm embarrassed to say that it's taken me a long time to figure out where I stand on the issue of capital punishment. Growing up in a rural, conservative area, you're taught that "an eye for an eye" is justice. I now know that's untrue:

“The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent—strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.”

Like Jacy said in her review, capital punishment is for those without capital. The poor, the mentally/physically ill, Black and Brown, the abused, the lost, the downtrodden. Aren't we, a nation founded upon "Christian" principles, supposed to love, forgive, and care for our unlucky neighbors?

“The death penalty is not about whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit. The real question of capital punishment in this country is: do we deserve to kill?”

l
lyndasclater
Jan 12, 2021

Such a great writer. So many trials and tribulations for African Americans, children, minorities. Just mercy - so important.

g
Green_Cat_68
Jan 10, 2021

I read Just Mercy in an optional book program over winter break, and found it a very touching and emotional novel. It details Bryan Stevenson’s experiences freeing wrongly convicted individuals from death row and his own stories involving racism and prejudice. Although I was aware of the injustice in society, in a way, I was still completely blind towards how exactly these oppressed people felt. Reading the array of detailed and vivid stories in Just Mercy opened my eyes to the fact that there are people, who come from all sorts of different backgrounds, that suffer from this clear unfairness.

I admired the way that he blends these anecdotes with facts, knowledge and reason that clearly show that something is amiss with our current society. The commentary and transitions used to describe cases were seamless, making each one just as significant as the other. There were moments in the book that I found upsetting because I was unable to believe that it had happened in real life. For example, a case that involved an obviously innocent man being put on death row for murder escalated to the point where people were so eager to blame someone that further steps were taken to create ‘evidence’ to further support this claim.

In general, Just Mercy covers some heavy topics so I would only recommend it to young adults and up (this was offered to high school students to give an idea). Otherwise, I feel as if everyone should read it at least once in their lifetime.

k
K4Hiemstra
Jan 02, 2021

Such an eye opening book. It evokes many emotions; frustration, anger, heart break. Well written and on my highly recommend list.

pacl_teens Dec 02, 2020

Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson tells the heartbreaking true story of what it is like to be on the front lines of the United States death row. Stevenson is a lawyer, who moves to Alabama in order to achieve his dream of being a civil rights lawyer. He is intrigued by the justice system, only to find out that it is full of corruption and inequality. The book focusses on the story of Walter McMillian, who was unrightfully prosecuted and charged of capital punishment. Through vivid and descriptive stories, Stevenson brings a completely new perspective on the unfair justice system, and what we can do to change it. I would highly recommend this memoir for anyone who is interested in learning about the criminal-justice system in America. It includes mature topics such as racial injustice, disability, poverty, and brutality, so I would recommend it for an older audience. There is a version of the book for young adults, as well as a movie. Overall this book is fascinating yet graphically tragic, and is a cry for help for every person charged of the death penalty. -Olivia, Grade 10

p
pokano
Nov 09, 2020

Important book by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. If you liked the movie, Just Mercy, this book offers even more cases of injustice, most likely based on race, poverty, and disability, than the movie did. Stevenson has devoted his life to obtaining justice for people wrongfully convicted of capital crimes or who have been imprisoned for life either for minor crimes or for more serious crimes with extensive mitigating circumstances. If you think our legal system works properly everywhere, this is a must read. For me, Mr Stevenson is a genuine hero.

p
pamsloane
Nov 08, 2020

One of my new favorite non-fiction books and so grateful that Greenwich Reads Together chose this as one of our selections this year. I am hopeful that the work of Bryan Stevenson and his Equal Justice Initiative will be a beneficial reference point for the new Biden-Harris admin to use as it pursues criminal justice reform. The movie, Just Mercy, was excellent but only a taste of the depth of investigation and reform that Stevenson pursues.

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c
cknightkc
Nov 06, 2018

“You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close,” - p. 14

c
cknightkc
Nov 06, 2018

“…the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” - p. 18

c
cknightkc
Nov 06, 2018

“The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent—strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.” - p. 294

DBRL_ReginaF Mar 10, 2018

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

s
shayshortt
Nov 03, 2016

My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.

o
OutsideTheBox
Apr 16, 2016

"...capital punishment means 'them without the capital get the punishment.'" -- p. 6 Steve Bright, director of Southern Prisoners Defense Committee

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Kerguelen
Oct 07, 2020

Kerguelen thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

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ChadTSmith
Jul 27, 2020

ChadTSmith thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Summary

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Kerguelen
Oct 07, 2020

The American prison system has critical flaws, and in combination with the racial prejudices in the American South, it has created the perfect storm to sentence Walter McMillian, an innocent black man, with the death penalty. Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization with the intent of advocating for both prisoners’ rights and pushing for softer sentences on dehumanized criminals, and defending Walter McMillian is no exception. Although proving McMillian’s innocence is the key case in the book, it is not the only topics; Stevenson also covers the lack of support for mentally disabled people in America, the double-edged sword that is the American media, and his ideas on why the American justice system has been biased against African Americans for decades. Overall, the book is a greatly emotional read, but much of the scenes in the book can be sensitive and/or disturbing, ranging from lynching to rape.

s
shayshortt
Nov 03, 2016

As a young law student, Bryan Stevenson was somewhat adrift at Harvard Law School, unsure of his direction or his future. He wanted to do something that would help people, but he was having trouble connecting his theoretical education with meaningful action. Then, an internship at the Southern Prisoner’s Defence Committee led to work helping inmates on death row in the Deep South. Most of these prisoners were indigent, and could not afford legal counsel to help review or appeal their cases. The experience made a profound impression, and led him to found the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama in 1994. Stevenson would go on to appeal countless death sentences, and challenge the practice of sentencing minors to life without parole. Just Mercy recounts his experiences representing people who have been written off by society.

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