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Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and…
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Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (2014)

by Bryan Stevenson

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My book club chose this as one of the selections this year. I had never heard of it before but I volunteered to review it. I always go a little crazy doing the research on the author, but I really enjoyed finding out all I could about Bryan Stevenson and the subject of the book.

I loved this book and if I was teaching any kind of social studies class I would somehow get around to reading this book with the class or at least doing a few of the chapters. There are also great videos of Bryan available for free. There is almost enough content in these videos to allow you to understand this topic without reading the book... but I suggest you read the book, too.

Here are some of my notes from my book club ( I am not including all of them as I would have to be more careful about citations than I was for an oral presentation)

You are welcome to use this info for your book club (as gathered here by me) I hope more clubs read this book. If you are inclined, please share you info with me as I would like to keep up to date on Bryan Stevenson and his work.

Quotes

From Ted Talk
In 1972, there were 300,000 people in jails and prisons. Today, there are 2.3 million. The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. We have seven million people on probation and parole. And mass incarceration, in my judgment, has fundamentally changed our world. In poor communities, in communities of color there is this despair, there is this hopelessness, that is being shaped by these outcomes. One out of three black men between the ages of 18 and 30 is in jail, in prison, on probation or parole. In urban communities across this country -- Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington -- 50 to 60 percent of all young men of color are in jail or prison or on probation or parole.
….
And finally, I believe that, despite the fact that it is so dramatic and so beautiful and so inspiring and so stimulating, we will ultimately not be judged by our technology, we won't be judged by our design, we won't be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society, not by how they treat their rich and the powerful and the privileged, but by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated. Because it's in that nexus that we actually begin to understand truly profound things about who we are.



We have to commit to doing things uncomfortable…
...

The opposite of poverty is justice



Book information

Stories from the book -- gathered from web site of Stevenson's organization

Walter McMillian https://eji.org/walter-mcmillian

Walter McMillian, who is black, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a young white woman who worked as a clerk in a dry clearing store in Monroeville, Alabama. Mr. McMillian was held on death row prior to being convicted and sentenced to death. His trial lasted only a day and a half. Three witnesses testified against Mr. McMillian and the jury ignored multiple alibi witnesses, who were black, who testified that he was at a church fish fry at the time of the crime. The trial judge overrode the jury’s sentencing verdict for life and sentenced Mr. McMillian to death.
EJI's Bryan Stevenson took on the case in postconviction, where he showed that the State’s witnesses had lied on the stand and the prosecution had illegally suppressed exculpatory evidence. Mr. McMillian's conviction was overturned by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in 1993 and prosecutors agreed the case had been mishandled. Mr. McMillian was released in 1993 after spending six years on death row for a crime he did not commit.

Marsha Colbey https://eji.org/marsha-colbey
Marsha Colbey was released from prison in December 2012, in time to spend Christmas with her family. Ms. Colbey was wrongly convicted of capital murder in 2007 and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole when she gave birth to a stillborn baby. EJI challenged Ms. Colbey's conviction and the Alabama Supreme Court reversed and ordered a new trial.

Antonio Nunez https://eji.org/antonio-nunez
Antonio Nuñez is the only child in the country known to have been sentenced to die in prison for his involvement, at age 14, in a single incident where no one was injured. (California)

Joe Sullivan https://eji.org/joe-sullivan
Ian Manuel https://eji.org/ian-manuel
Diane Jones https://eji.org/diane-jones
Robert Caston https://eji.org/robert-caston
Jimmy Dill https://eji.org/jimmy-dill executed

Video and Audio.. Whatever
There are too many videos to list. Here are a few I looked at.

1992 Walter McMillian on 60 minutes
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shzMjyuijRU
2013 Ted Talk https://www.ted.com/talks/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice
2007 Death Penalty and Racism
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6e3ZfKcgQyw
“Race is the greatest predictor of who gets the death penalty”
2015 Harvard Law School Graduation Speech https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usbS_hC38GY
**2016 Sermon at the National Cathedral https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0N3g-HdEUw
This is inspirational...

Study Guide
http://www.randomhousebooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/justmercy_studyguidev...

Recent News -- this gets out of date very quickly
Supreme Court Rules against Judges imposing death sentences after jury did not (florida)
http://eji.org/news/hurst-v-florida-holds-florida-capital-statute-unconstitution...
Death Sentences Vacated in Florida https://eji.org/news/florida-supreme-court-vacates-over-100-death-sentencesAlabama is still holding out and continues with the executions - ronald smith
https://eji.org/news/alabama-executes-ronald-smith-despite-jury-life-verdict

Supreme Court strikes down Florida death penalty
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-finds-floridas-capital-punishment-process-unconstitutional/2016/01/12/d5bed1b0-b93e-11e5-99f3-184bc379b12d_story.html?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.1400f8b98ffa

Florida is trying to “fix” it’s death penalty law in order to reinstate http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-death-penalty-legislature-reacti...

Other Links
Equal Justice Initiative https://eji.org/
List of People executed in Alabama https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_executed_in_Alabama ( )
  honkcronk | Mar 17, 2017 |
This is a great and eye-opening read. This is the story of the wrongfully accused and children who are sentenced to life in prison without a chance for parole. Bryan Stevenson and his group of lawyers are heroes for fighting for these people, saving their lives. As sad as this book is, I could not put it down. These men who are wrongfully sentenced come out broken people when they are finally released and that is such a shame. They seem to be the forgotten. The children are heartbreaking as well. Imagine being fourteen-years-old and being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. There is no incentive for rehabilitation. What a sad outlook. This book was our book club choice. Imagine the conversations and debates a group could have with this title. ( )
  bnbookgirl | Mar 14, 2017 |
A great story about the work, not great as a memoir - pretty impersonal. ( )
  kate_r_s | Feb 12, 2017 |
This is a book that I couldn't put down. Stevenson tells the story Walter McMillan who is imprisoned and given the death sentence for a murder he didn't commit. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that he couldn't have been the murderer, he still spent years on death row in Alabama waiting for the truth to come to light. Through the lens of this single case, Stevenson illustrates the many problems inherent with our criminal justice system and its emphasis on "justice" rather than rehabilitation for criminal offenders. Fascinating book written in an easy-to-understand way for those of us without law degrees. ( )
  mojomomma | Jan 30, 2017 |
Moving, heartbreaking, outraging. ( )
  yvonnea | Jan 20, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812994523, Hardcover)

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.
 
Praise for Just Mercy
 
“Words such as important and compelling may have lost their force through overuse, but to read this book is to feel that they have been restored, along with one’s hopes for humanity.”—Tracy Kidder
 
“Bryan Stevenson is America’s young Nelson Mandela—a brilliant lawyer fighting with courage and conviction to guarantee justice for all.”—Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:45 -0400)

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