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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Just Mercy

A Story of Justice and Redemption
ISBN: 9780812994520
Publisher: Random House Publishing
Publication Date: 10/21/2014
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 5 Stars
A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.
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 justice.

My Review

A special thank you to Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley for an ARC iin exchange for an honest review.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, a powerful, inspiring story and journey of one man’s fight, Bryan Stevenson. Beginning as an intern at Atlanta-based Southern Prisoners Defense Committee in 1983, which would connect and lead him on a path which would not only change his life, but history, and others who needed him desperately to be their voice, in a poor and inadequate criminal justice system.
Wow, this is one powerful book, I devoured! As a former whistleblower in one the first SOX cases in the US making it to the federal level in an unprecedented law, I am all about justice and helping those who cannot help themselves, in order to set a precedent and change the course of history. However, unfortunately with any fight, comes obstacles, challenges, time, and despair, as there are some who do not wish misdeeds to be uncovered and brought front and center.
Stevenson, a professor of law at New York University and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal firm providing services for the wrongly condemned, describes in his memoir how he received a call to represent this largely neglected clientele, and profound issues among this group.
Similar to a young Nelson Mandela, Stevenson is driven, a brilliant lawyer fighting with passion, courage, fury, and conviction- striving for justice for all. Written from first person, he describes the early work of the Equal Justice Initiative he founded to defend the poor, and the wrongly condemned and convicted, and those spending time on death row.
Full of facts, brutal honesty, and sometimes shocking information, our inadequate justice system, with no parole in some states, with alarming facts such as America with the world’s highest incarceration rate; with an inside look at the inherent inhumanity of our American justice system.
Totally captivating, a book, you will not be able to put down. Readers learn the story of Walter McMillian, a black man from southern Alabama, who was accused by a white con-main of two murders, although the snitch had never even met him and was under investigation himself for one of the murders!
Through a series of bogus legal situations, police harassment, racism, and phony testimony, McMillian found himself on Alabama’s death row, which unfortunately happened often with poor Southern blacks susceptible to wrongful imprisonment and execution. Fortunately, Stevenson’s persistent efforts, spared this man.
Walter’s story is one of many that he tells, as he has represented abused and neglected children who were prosecuted as adults and suffered more abuse and mistreatment after being placed in adult facilities. He has represented women whose numbers in prison have increased 640 percent in the last thirty years, and seen how our hysteria about drug addiction and our hostility to the poor have made us quick to criminalize and prosecute poor women when a pregnancy goes wrong.
He also has represented mentally disabled people whose illnesses have often landed them in prison for decades, and have gotten close to victims of violent crime and their families and witnessed and how even many of the custodians of mass imprisonment-prison staff-have been made less healthy, more violent, and angry, and less just and merciful. Even with those who have committed terrible crimes they want to find redemption and want more than anything hope and humanity, when nurtured by simple interventions, which are not always forthcoming.
“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” Stevenson explains his work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded him that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.
“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.”
“We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others. The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I appreciate we all need mercy, we all need justice, and perhaps we all need some measure of unmerited grace.
As you read, you may think you are reading a work of fiction (similar to the recent book, which I loved, and recommend, The Color of Justice by Ace Collins ; however, Just Mercy, is real, true to life, even though as suspenseful and intense as fiction; it is a non-fiction sad account, which clearly voices the flaws in our American justice system.
My heart goes out to Stevenson, as in any fight of this nature, the personal crisis suffered when fighting for equality, power, and justice, as emotionally profound. Bryan Stevenson is a hero, an influential crusader for justice today, and deserves to be supported for his work, and his courage in the writing of this extraordinary memoir.
I hope all Americans will support him and his cause, and be a voice to help our country -A positive message for us all with the power to transform. Well Done. Highly Recommend!

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