Monday, September 1, 2014
JUST MERCY by BRYAN STEVENSON
Bryan Stevenson is executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama and teaches at NYU Law School as well. He was privileged to attend Harvard Law on scholarship as a young man but at first thought he hadn't chosen well. The courses he took just didn't seem meaningful to him. Then he did an internship in Georgia for a nonprofit working to free death row prisoners there who had been wrongfully convicted. He had a long conversation with one of those men that changed his life.
Suddenly the law meant something to him and he was committed to taking the right courses, working the right jobs, and following the right career path to devote his life to right injustices. It has been one of the most difficult careers he could have chosen but also immensely rewarding.
Stevenson tells this often heart-wrenching story through the stories of his clients, mainly that of Walter McMillian. Walter was a victim in every sense of the word. When a young woman was murdered in a dry cleaner's store, Walter was hosting a barbecue at his home with many guests and was seen by others as well who just happened to pass by. Yet he was arrested and put on death row prior to his trial. His story goes downhill from there if you can believe it. His family and his community supported him but they were black in the Deep South and the white establishment didn't intend to let the overwhelming evidence of his innocence prevail. It's quite a story.
You won't be surprised to learn that Stevenson is black too and his work has brought him into danger more than once, but he has persevered. He has many successes to his credit, returning not guilty death row prisoners to their loved ones and a free life. This book will upset your faith in the justice system but build hope that perhaps the Bryan Stevensons of this country will manage to change it. His clients don't always have the happiest of endings, Walter McMillian being an example, but they have a chance, which is a lot more than they ever had before.
An eminently readable book about a topic that should infuriate us all.
Source: LibraryThing win