Just Mercy Book Review

Paper Type:  Book review
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1248 Words
Date:  2022-04-14

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is a thought-provoking and captivating read that tackles redemption and justice. According to Stevenson, (2015), the American criminal justice system faces stiff criticism from myriad people, especially human rights activists who argue that it is more criminal than justice. In short, American law enforcers apply injustice in the process of trying to correct social wrongs. The American criminal justice is characterized by errors that sadly lead to the death of some inmates and accused persons. Cruelty and racism in different correctional units across the country are the order of the day.

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Firstly, the book tackles the unusual punishment that many people refer to as corporal punishment, especially when trying to get information from accused persons. According to Stevenson (2015), law enforcers, especially anti-terrorism police, fail to learn from their past mistakes culminating in human rights activists accusing them of violating the rights of accused persons. Hard Heart of Dixie, popularly known as Alabama, is the adopted stomping ground for Bryan Stevenson and is rampant with injustice cases. Bryan Stevenson is regarded by many as the champion of the damned as he tries to fight for the rights of accused persons.

Bryan Stevenson is the visionary founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative based in Montgomery. The text talks about how he receives immense praise for starting an initiative that advocates equality and justice. Stevenson is honored by many for trying his level best to vindicate the innocent through action aimed at tempering mercy for the guilty. His efforts have earned him honors like the MacArthur Genius Grant and an honorary degree from Georgetown, Yale, and Penn. Just Mercy is just one of his latest contributions at the age of 54, and many more essential contributions are expected from them.

Just like many of his contributions, Just Mercy is an enjoyable book written with style and substance. The book vividly, avidly and directly presents information, making it an easy read for informational analysis. Stevenson points out his triumphs and failures through reportage and commentary. He supplies enough information to wittily back his stand and arguments. He also talks about the unfolding backdrop of the saga of Walter McMillan. The innocent black Alabaman was unfairly jailed and sentenced to death for the murder of an 18-year-old white woman in 1986.

Looking Stevenson's work, the aura of complexity around him evidences; rightfully, he is an enigma. Stevenson led a lifelong bachelor life, leading to the assertion that he married his work. He grew up in a working-class family in southern Delaware. Stevenson views everybody as an equal; thus, he vehemently condemns race-based discrimination, which also exhibits in the text through the meticulously chosen words and crafted narration. He is from an African-American family and was born five years after Brown v. Stevenson that followed the footsteps of the Jim Crow. Perhaps, it is why he decided to campaign for the rights of the oppressed in the society.

The death of his 86-year-old grandfather, who was killed by thugs while trying to steal his black and white TV, left him traumatized. Stevenson was just 16 years old when the horrific demise occurred. He believes that racial discrimination motivated the crime. More so, it happened at a time when criminal cases were many, and people of color primarily bore the blame for these heinous acts. His granddad's demise might have coaxed a once cool Stevenson to react; essentially preparing him to take the high road. Stevenson decided to pursue civil rights law in the South after completing his law degree at Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government.

Despite working as a professional lawyer who earned his money practicing law, injustices around him influenced him to venture into a career fighting for the rights of the less fortunate. Bryan started his studies at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and later relocated to Alabama, where he began the journey to justice advocacy by beginning the Equal Justice Initiative. His efforts extend to fighting for many prisoners unjustly condemned. Therefore, he is the recipient of numerous accolades and vast reverence, which commenced just thirty years after venturing into this new career. Notably, he exonerated many innocent people previously wrongly accused and detained or done so just because of their skin color. Among other Stevenson's celebrated achievements is the fight that led to the abolition of the death penalty. Importantly and commendably, he affirmed every person's right to life; on the other hand, he stressed that no one has the right to end another person's life. He also fought against life imprisonment without parole for juveniles which he argued was an unjust justice verdict for people of color. Right now, the mentally and physically disabled behind bars celebrate his efforts since they are no longer abused or mistreated.

McMillian's pardon is one of the many of Stevenson's victories. The McMillian case played out in Monroeville, a town highlighted by Harper Lee. During the judgment, the witnesses in the case cooked evidence, especially the six alibi witnesses and the police officer. The testimonies given shook jury members planning to rule against McMillian. The prosecution coached two witnesses, and one of them later confessed to coercion to provide false evidence. It later emerged that one of the witnesses wanted favoritism from the prosecution; hence, he falsely stated that he spotted McMillian's truck at the crime scene.

When reading his judgment, the justice, who refused Stevenson's adjoining in the case, ruled that McMillian was guilty, but made a suspicious decision when he gave McMillian life imprisonment instead of a death sentence. Speculation is rife that it occurred since Stevenson turned to an unconventional court to ensure that McMillian went free. The Alabama Court of Appeal reversed the judgment after granting McMillian a new trial, which ended in a not guilty verdict.

According to Stevenson, Alabama is rampant with injustices since the judges presiding over these cases are elected, as opposed to appointment on merit by a judiciary board. Indeed, the public election of judges triggers politician-like behavior, which further influences their decisions - they make them considering their self-interests or reelection. They serve their masters at the expense of delivering justice to accused persons. During campaigns, those interested in the seats get funding from business people not concerned with criminal prosecution so long as the judges serve their interests.

According to Stevenson (2015), unlike Florida, where there are significant restrictions on judicial override in capital offenses, Alabama continues to operate under an unbridled justice system. Justice delayed is justice denied. Stevenson intricately discourses this assertion through his numerous anecdotes, personal stories and overarching morals all through the book while trying to fight the injustices, for a long time, experienced in Alabama. In the book, he ideally writes under the guise that the justice system must punish the wrongdoers through appropriate methods of proving accused persons guilty. People should not be judged by their skin color, age or gender. The book interestingly takes a bold stand on social injustices and ineptness in the justice system by employing Alabama as a model case study. The author's diction, thematic issues covered and stylistic devices accentuate the essence of the book - to call out an unfair justice system modeled to deliver justice the citizens yet excelling at the opposite profoundly.


Murray, N. (2015). "The Half Has Never Been Told: slavery and the making of American capitalism, Just Mercy: a story of justice and redemption."

Stevenson, B. (2015). "Just Mercy: A story of justice and redemption." Spiegel & Grau.

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Just Mercy Book Review. (2022, Apr 14). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/just-mercy-book-review

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