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'Just Mercy' Will Change How You See The World

James Duncan Davidson / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., a private, nonprofit human rights organization, helping the poor, the incarcerated, the condemned and children. He is also professor of law at New York University School of Law and received the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, and also won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color.

In his provocative book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Stevenson declares that without equal justice in our country, we cannot have real equality. The book opens when Stevenson agrees to take on the case of Walter McMillan, a black man unbelievably being held on death row 15 months before his case even goes to trial. Strike One for equal justice. Stevenson is contacted by the judge and told not to take the case. Strike Two. Strike Three is when Stevenson starts to investigate and finds overwhelming evidence of Walter’s innocence, including dozens of witnesses who were with Walter 11 miles away from the crime scene at the time of the murder.

Stevenson’s work on other cases involving death row sentences—often given to innocent people or children tried as adults—are interspersed with the longer narrative of Walter McMillan’s abhorrent treatment by a system that presumes innocence, in Monroeville, Ala., where Atticus Finch graces the town square.

With prison populations at unprecedented levels and dozens of inmates falsely accused on death row, this timely book has the driving narrative of a Michael Connelly crime novel. And like Connelly's books, Just Mercy will change the way you read the headlines and see the world.