Just Mercy Short Summary
“Just mercy” is a memoir of Bryan Stevenson as he gives an account of his career as a legal advocate supporting oppressed people who have either received cruel sentences or false convictions.
From a tender age, Stevenson has always questioned the economic and racial inequities he observed within his community. His story begins after meeting a death row inmate by the name Henry while serving an internship at the Southern Prisoners Defense committee.
After moving to Alabama, he formed the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). He then focuses on representing death row inmates. In his book, he places a key focus on Walter McMillian who got sentenced to death after being falsely accused by Ralph Myers of Murdering Rhonda Morrison. Ralph accused him because he had an affair with a white woman called Karen Kelly, his comrade in crime.
Through EJI, Stevenson fights in defense of Walter through multiple appeals. It is during this time that he discovers more about corruption, racial discrimination, and suffering.
Myers eventually reforms and recants his testimony to EJI. This leads to a further discovery of the state’s bribery and corruption in securing Walter’s wrongful conviction.
The white elites become angry with EJI discoveries and threaten violence. This attracts the attention of Tom Chapman, the district attorney. He launches an independent inquiry that ultimately confirms Walter’s innocence leading to his release after six years on death row.
Though Stevenson tried to rehabilitate Walter, he eventually succumbed to dementia and anxiety due to the traumatic experience.
Within the story, Stevenson also discusses his experiences with other people who had gone through injustice perpetrated by the criminal justice system. These include juveniles sentenced for life and underwent inhuman treatment. His efforts through the EJI eventually led to the ban on juvenile life imprisonment. What’s more, the EJI has defended poor mothers who were falsely accused of killing their babies as well as advocating against unfair treatment of the mentally unstable.
In addition to lengthily discussing the histories of various marginalized books, the author also describes how these experiences have shaped his perception of hope, kindness, mercy, and justice.