An unforgettable true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to end mass incarceration in America — from one of the most inspiring lawyers of our time.
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law office in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to defending the poor, the incarcerated, and the wrongly condemned.
Just Mercy tells the story of EJI, from the early days with a small staff facing the nation’s highest death sentencing and execution rates, through a successful campaign to challenge the cruel practice of sentencing children to die in prison, to revolutionary projects designed to confront Americans with our history of racial injustice.
One of EJI’s first clients was Walter McMillian, a young Black man who was sentenced to die for the murder of a young white woman that he didn’t commit. The case exemplifies how the death penalty in America is a direct descendant of lynching — a system that treats the rich and guilty better than the poor and innocent.
Let start by saying, it took me a minute to get my emotions together after finishing the book and watching the movie. This was the first time I ever read the book and watched its movie right after. This was also the first book about this subject that I introduced to my son. He found it very informative but also sad.
While the focus of the movie is on the Walter McMillian case, the book focuses on that case and the many cases of others on death row facing similar or worse fates than Walter.
Before I decided to read this book with my son, I had a pretty strong opinion about death row. I was a person who thought that it was a waste of money to let those on death row have such long sentences before being put to death. After reading this book, my opinion has most definitely changed. I see why they have long sentences. If it weren’t for those long sentences, so many would not have the chance to fight for their freedom or lesser sentences.
The writers and director of the film did such an amazing job with the casting and how the movie was done. There were some noticeable things that were either changed or left out, but it didn’t take away from what was there.
Not only did Walter’s story tug at my emotions, so did the story of Herbert Richardson. A man who fought for this country and was damaged mentally. While he did commit his crime, being punished by being put to death because the justice system isn’t equipped with handling suspects with mental or emotional illness is unacceptable. Had the military and the justice system done better, he would have had the change to repent from his crime while also getting the help that he needed.
Stevenson did a great job bringing to light about the many children that have been sent to death row when they aren’t even close to being the age of 18. Having to spend their lives in prisons when they are at an age where they don’t even fully comprehend what is being done to them. This also shows how horrifying the justice system can be. Some of these children didn’t even commit the crimes that they are accused of or they have committed crimes that adults aren’t even being sent to death row for. The children go in traumatized and if they are lucky enough to come out they are in even worse conditions. It’s even worse for those who have already been damaged.
I would highly recommend both reading the book and watching the movie. This book is great on audio and is narrated by Stevenson.
4 Golden Girls
Available now in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook