In Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson gives an account of what happens during the period he works as a legal advocate. During that period, he mainly represents the marginalized people. These individuals are either facing false convictions or the sentences meted on them are overly harsh. The book gives stories of different individuals. The main aim of the author is to urge the American legal arm concerned with criminal justice and the society in general not to focus on punishing and condemning those accused of wrongdoing but rather show them mercy and empathy.
Born in the poor neighborhood of Delaware, the author grows up with the questions economic and racial inequalities lingering in his mind. He befriends a death row inmate called Henry. It is at this point that Bryan sees the essence of pursuing criminal justice so that he can fight for the elimination of the death penalty.
The Complete and Informative Plot Overview
The first chapter begins when Bryan in a young lawyer. He is involved in the case of Walter McMillan. It is at a time when there are racial tensions, and at the same time Bryan is warned by the judge from being involved in such cases. The accused was in a relationship with a married woman, Karen. During those times, interracial relations were unacceptable. In the course of the divorce dispute between Karen and her husband, a young girl, Rhonda Morrison is killed. The police were under pressure and on the brink of losing credibility take in Karen and Walter as culprits. However, no solid evidence points to them as offenders. Walter is also accused of killing Vickie Pittman with his accomplice being Karen. However, there is no evidence to link him directly with both murders.
In chapter 2 there is an account of cases in Alabama in which black men are killed. The men died in the hands of the police who beat them up for minor traffic violation offenses. After being denied the use of an inhaler, one of the men dies in the cell from an asthma attack. Bryan gets the story from Ruffin. At the same time, there is also a case where the police shot a young teenager. There is no evidence that the teenager tried to anything wrong. Bryan also becomes a victim of police brutality as he listens to music late at night. Though he is released, he feels thoroughly humiliated. This incidence inspires Stevenson to begin investigating cases of police violation of black men.
Chapter three is a narration of what happens to Walter McMillan. Walter is arrested not because there is any tangible evidence that links him to the death of Ronda Morrison, but because of the malicious claims presented by Ralph Myers. Even before the case is concluded, Walter is sentenced to death. This is illegality. By moving the trial to an affluent neighborhood, the essence is to prevent black jurors who may be sympathetic to Walter’s situation from getting involved in the case. With no clear evidence, the jury sentences Walter to death for the murder of Ronda Morrison.
Chapter 4 is a description the War Veteran Herbert Duncan, showing the struggles Veterans go through in getting mental health support required. Chapter 6 is a depiction of the widespread injustices meted on juveniles. Some are given harsh convictions. Chapter 8, the readers are introduced to Tracy, Ian, and Antonio. Through the stories they give, Stevenson explains how the legal system is against children of color.
In chapter 10, the book turns its attention to the poor and mentally ill, who are handled by ill-trained corrections officers. The specific case here is that of Avery Jenkins. He is said to have murdered one of the psychotic incidences. Stevenson intervenes, and he is transferred to a proper mental health facility that can handle his situation
Chapter 12 focuses on poor women in prison for infant mortality issues way beyond their control. Chapter 14 concentrates on behaviorally disabled children who are imprisoned. Chapter 16 comes to an end on a hopeful note. On May 17, 2010, the Supreme Court announced that life sentences on children convicted of was cruel and should not be allowed.
The next chapters follow the happenings in the case of Walter McMillan. In Stevenson’s view, there were several missteps in the case, such sentencing him to death before the official trial began. The case was also moved to a wealthier community, and several eyewitness accounts for the accused were ignored.
Assistance from 60 Minutes (television show) made people aware of the improper handling of McMillan case. Eventually, the court gave a ruling that favored McMillan. This is even though he had spent six years on death row. He was cleared of all the charges leveled against him. Chapter 15 ends with a passionate plea that passionate punishments should be reevaluated. This is the end of the synopsis.