If I could be Book Czar, I would make this moving memoir required reading for the entire nation. Stevenson recounts his early career as a young attorney working on multiple death row cases, first for the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee and later as founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. From a purely narrative point of view, Just Mercy is impossible to put down. In alternating chapters, Stevenson weaves multiple stories with one extended and tragic one — that of Walter McMillian, an African American man wrongly accused and convicted of killing a white woman, despite clear and compelling evidence to the contrary. The effect is shattering. This is one of the most heartbreaking and inspiring books I have ever read, and an excellent introduction to the problems of racial inequity in our criminal justice system. Recommended By Lori M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"With a mandate to serve the poor and voiceless, 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 got the call to represent this largely neglected clientele in our justice system. He notes that, with no parole in some states and a thriving private prison business that often pushes local governments to create new crimes and impose stiffer sentences, America has the world's highest incarceration rate and, at 2.3 million, its largest incarcerated population. In an early case during his career, Stevenson defended Walter McMillian, a black man from southern Alabama, who was accused by a white con-man of two murders, although the snitch had never even met him and was himself under investigation 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, fully aware of the legacy of class and race prejudice that made poor Southern blacks susceptible to wrongful imprisonment and execution. Stevenson's persistent efforts spared McMillian from that ultimate fate, and the author's experience with the flaws in the American justice system add extra gravity to a deeply disturbing and oft-overlooked topic. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“A distinguished NYU law professor and MacArthur grant recipient offers the compelling story of the legal practice he founded to protect the rights of people on the margins of American society....Emotionally profound, necessary reading.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review, Kirkus Prize Finalist)
“A passionate account of the ways our nation thwarts justice and inhumanely punishes the poor and disadvantaged.” Booklist (starred review)
“A searing, moving and infuriating memoir...Bryan Stevenson may, indeed, be America’s Mandela. For decades he has fought judges, prosecutors and police on behalf of those who are impoverished, black or both....Injustice is easy not to notice when it affects people different from ourselves; that helps explain the obliviousness of our own generation to inequity today. We need to wake up. And that is why we need a Mandela in this country.” Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times
“Inspiring...a work of style, substance and clarity....Stevenson is not only a great lawyer, he’s also a gifted writer and storyteller.” The Washington Post
“Just Mercy is every bit as moving as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so....[It] demonstrates, as powerfully as any book on criminal justice that I’ve ever read, the extent to which brutality, unfairness, and racial bias continue to infect criminal law in the United States. But at the same time that [Bryan] Stevenson tells an utterly damning story of deep-seated and widespread injustice, he also recounts instances of human compassion, understanding, mercy, and justice that offer hope....Just Mercy is a remarkable amalgam, at once a searing indictment of American criminal justice and a stirring testament to the salvation that fighting for the vulnerable sometimes yields.” The New York Review of Books
“Unfairness in the justice system is a major theme of our age....This book brings new life to the story by placing it in two affecting contexts: Stevenson’s life work and the deep strain of racial injustice in American life....The book extols not his nobility but that of the cause, and reads like a call to action for all that remains to be done....The message of the book, hammered home by dramatic examples of one man’s refusal to sit quietly and countenance horror, is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. Just Mercy will make you upset and it will make you hopeful.” The New York Times Book Review
#1New York Times Bestseller - Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times The Washington Post The Boston Globe The Seattle Times Esquire Time
Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction -Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction - Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award - Finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize - Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize - An American Library Association Notable Book
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 true justice.
Praise for Just Mercy
Every bit as moving as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so . . . a searing indictment of American criminal justice and a stirring testament to the salvation that fighting for the vulnerable sometimes yields. David Cole, The New York Review of Books
Searing, moving . . . Bryan Stevenson may, indeed, be America s Mandela. Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times
You don t have to read too long to start cheering for this man. . . . The message of this book . . . is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. Just Mercy will make you upset and it will make you hopeful. Ted Conover, The New York Times Book Review
Inspiring . . . a work of style, substance and clarity . . . Stevenson is not only a great lawyer, he s also a gifted writer and storyteller. The Washington Post
As deeply moving, poignant and powerful a book as has been, and maybe ever can be, written about the death penalty. The Financial Times
Brilliant. The Philadelphia Inquirer
Not since Atticus Finch has a fearless and committed lawyer made such a difference in the American South. Though larger than life, Atticus exists only in fiction. Bryan Stevenson, however, is very much alive and doing God s work fighting for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope. Just Mercy is his inspiring and powerful story. John Grisham
Bryan Stevenson is one of my personal heroes, perhaps the most inspiring and influential crusader for justice alive today, and Just Mercy is extraordinary. The stories told within these pages hold the potential to transform what we think we mean when we talk about justice. Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow"
About the Author
Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.