Analysis of Corrupt Justice System Portrayed in Bryan Stevenson’s Novel Just Mercy

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and an author, Bryan Stevenson, in his novel Just Mercy, question the corrupt justice system. Stevenson highlights the cons of the justice system, such as how racism and bribery are taken into place. With the creation of a downcast tone, it conveys to the audience on the gloomy side of the justice system.

Stevenson shares his experiences of being a lawyer. He wanted to defend those in need and most desperate, such as the poor, the people who were wrongly condemned or falsely accused. As Stevenson continues sharing his past defendants’ stories of their past experiences and the poor treatment they have received. Stevenson no matter how hard the struggle was for getting justice to those he defended, he never succumbed. Always trying to find a way to turn the negative things into positive and turn it into an argument to give true justice to his defendant.

Stevenson begins his novel by showcasing a short context of the convict, Walter McMillian and how racism was taken into account to accuse an innocent. With the slow addition to the backstory of McMillian, it instigates a reign of sadness to the audience by establishing his innocence and false treatment. Stevenson uses the backstory of McMillian, to represent his stance on giving mercy to everyone. This is the usage of a pathos appeal, as Stevenson sends emotions to the readers by the usage of McMillian’s struggles.

The usage of pathos could be found frequently in Stevenson’s book to get his point across. For example, when Stevenson visited the grandmother of Charlie, a juvenile who killed his dad George for hospitalizing his mother. Charlie’s grandmother quickly prays in a whisper, “Lord, please help us. Lead this man and protect us from any choice that is not yours. Help me find the words, Lord. Tell me what to say, Lord–” after pleading to Stevenson. Manifesting an emotional appeal to the audience as it shows the difficult times and another supporting stance on Stevenson’s views of giving mercy.

In the nonfiction, Just Mercy there was a connection with the African American race. There was racial profiling and some African Americans were treated wrong and some being falsely accused of something they never have done. For example, in Just Mercy, there was also a man close to McMillian, who was falsely accused; Michael was nowhere near the area of the murder but was accused by the police and had him put on death row. Walter McMillian’s niece kept explaining how she had been with Michael all day long on the day the murder occurred. But Michael was still sent to prison, ignoring her voice; this made everyone in the family feel lost, questioned their rights and treatment and insecure with their lives as McMillian’s niece states “I feel like they done put me on death row, too,” knowing that Michael was as innocent as everyone else.

Poverty is another great struggle in Just Mercy. It is shown throughout each of Stevenson’s cases, as throughout Stevenson’s journey to getting true justice, the majority of blacks, and some whites are living on the streets. Some even avoid proper hospital care because of economic issues. There are also cases where mothers don’t have prenatal care and try to deliver their babies by themselves. For instance, a financially struggling family, Marsha Colby and her husband Glen Colby had to live in a crowded trailer with 6 of their children. One of the problems was that she was pregnant and she “knew that pregnancy at her age was very risky, but she couldn’t afford a doctor. She didn’t have the money to spare”. Marsha Colby knew from past deliveries and tried to make the best of it. Later, she found herself not feeling well for a couple of days, so she sat in a hot tub of water thinking it would subside the feeling.

But during her stay in the bath, she went through labor and delivered a stillborn baby. She tried to save the baby, but saw he wasn’t breathing and was dead. Her neighbors who knew she was pregnant did not see she was pregnant anymore, but there was no sight the child so they called the police. Marsha was then arrested and charged with murder. Showing the injustice in this as many suffer the same problem because of financial issues. Proving Stevenson’s point of how everyone deserves mercy for the right justice.

Bryan Stevenson with the use of a multitude of pathos appeal and his credibility of being a successful lawyer and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. Has proven his point of giving mercy to those in desperation and need. As Bryan Stevenson states, “The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.”


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