“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson, one of the most influential and brilliant lawyers, is one of the best-sellers in the U.S. and is also considered as one of the best books of the year. The book won the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction. This book is about the justice system, and fixing the broken system of justice.
Bryan Stevenson grew up in Delaware. He studied at Harvard Law School. After that he started representing poor clients. In the young age, Bryan Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative to help most desperate, needy, and poor people, and those people, who have wrongly been condemned. The initiative also tried to help women and children facing problems in the present justice system. One of those cases was that of Walter McMillian, who was sentenced to die for a murder, he said he didn’t commit. That case helped Bryan to explore more conspiracies, legal brinksmanship, and political machination, and changed his view about justice and mercy forever.
Just Mercy gives an account of a lawyer’s life and work in search of better system of justice, and shows the lives of those people, who have been defended by Bryan. With the help of McMillian’s case, Stenvenson has tried to show his commitment for not only individuals but also for American jurisprudence. This book shows that with every success, Stevenson was able to get more support. With the passage of time, he also won Sweden’s Olof Palme prize, MacArthur “genius” grant, and other such awards that were helpful for him in getting sufficient federal as well as organizational support. In the second half of the book, life sentences for children and slavery have also been discussed. While reading the book, a reader can find some pleasing sensations. The book shows that in spite of all difficulties, Stevenson has worked hard to free many people from excessive or wrongful punishment even if he has to argue with the Supreme Court. The book shows that most part of the life of Stevenson has passed in struggling for social justice.
One of the heart-touching stories in the book is that of a woman, who was convicted of killing her child, who never even existed. She tried to escape from jail and made up a pregnancy, but then she was arrested for killing the baby. After facing the death penalty, her punishment was changed to 20 years imprisonment. Later it was found that due to tied tubes, she was not even able to conceive.
The book also came with some issues. Many stories are over 3 decades old but they have been presented in such a way that they have happened yesterday. Sometimes, scenes and accounts are presented in such a way that a reader can easily guess that they are obtained from the memory and probably something is missing. Moreover, the story of McMillian has been presented so many times that almost every other chapter talks about his experience and Stevenson’s efforts for his freedom.
Overall, a reader can find that a person’s refusal to sit quietly can help in achieving larger goals.
Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
“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.”
“capital punishment means ‘them without the capital get the punishment.”
“Fear and anger are a threat to justice. They can infect a community, a state, or a nation, and make us blind, irrational, and dangerous.”
“Between 1990 and 2005, a new prison opened in the United States every ten days.”
“We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt.”