Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: Mercy is the Best Way to Treat People
A Problem with the American Justice System
Just Mercy is Bryan Stevenson’s personal record of his career as, essentially, a guardian (more specifically, a legal aid) to those discriminated against by the law. Off the bat, readers are informed about his history briefly, and we learn his motives behind going into this area of study. I found it oddly endearing that his grandmother was one of the main reasons he found his interest – she constantly educated him on the struggle for equality, as we learn she was the daughter of slaves in Virginia. Right away, I knew this book was going to be extremely swaying, as Stevenson has such a personal account in the matter. The fact that he cared so deeply for his grandmother obviously played a huge part in his empathy for the victims of unfair incarceration, and victims of discrimination overall.
The main point Stevenson communicates throughout the book is the fact that there is a problem with the American justice system. He believed it vilified certain marginalized groups, i.e. African Americans, while barely punishing others, i.e. White people. From the stories he describes, it’s hard not to feel the same way. Although this is a memoir of many pain-filled stories, I found relief in the fact that they do stem from a greater good. Stevenson was able to meet all these people through the foundation of the Equal Justice Initiative he started with his friend Eva Ansley in Alabama. The program was what allowed Stevenson to speak up for all these men and women victimized by the justice system.
There is an assortment of “victims” he uses as examples throughout the book, all being falsely sentenced of their crimes or just harshly punished. One person’s story, however, is the central story told of the book, taking about half of the book just to tell. Walter McMillian was a Black man accused of murdering a White woman, Vickie Pittman. We learn that Walter is a somewhat “American Dream” story – he was born into a poor family but eventually became very successful as an adult. I think this is part of what makes McMillian’s story so compelling to me; he had overcome all the adversity faced to him as a child growing up in these conditions, and he still got unfairly treated in the end by the legal system.
Ralph Myer’s story was completely contradictory to McMillian’s – in fact, he’s the man who made the false accusation sending McMillian to death row. I found his story very tough to understand emotionally because part of me despised him for almost ending another man’s life so easily. However, as I read on further I started to have more and more empathy for him. After learning how much environmental interactions can influence adult behaviors, I couldn’t help but almost sympathize with Myer. He was born to a poor socioeconomic family, and he suffers from psychological problems stemming from past trauma. He’s initially also convicted for the murder of Miss Pittman, and that’s when he falsely accuses McMillian of it.
I start to feel empathy for him once I realized how much he tries to take back his statement. I have always been a firm believer in allowing people the grace to make up for their mistakes, no matter how bad they may seem. I became so frustrated reading how difficult the justice department made it for Myers to, essentially, do the right thing! To me, this is where the evidence of this racial disparity in the system really came to light. It seemed that the law would rather have a Black, easily victimized man go to jail for a crime he didn’t commit, than spend the resources and time to find the true offender.
Eventually, Myers is assisted by Stevenson’s foundation, EJI, and is able to retract his statement, exonerating McMillian from his death row sentencing (which seemed to go on forever, at least how Stevenson described). I was honestly terrified to read the end of this first section, I didn’t think I could handle the story ending in McMillian’s unfair death. As corny as it may be, I felt myself release an actual breath of relief finding out he was acquited from his death row sentencing, as I’m sure many other readers did too.
While there was a lot more information Stevenson covered in this book, I found the personal victim accounts the most gripping, and the most intriguing. Apart from the actual victim accounts, though, he explores a lot surrounding the underlying racial inequalities still present in modern-day America and our justice system. I found the ending quite beautiful; Stevenson’s description of McMillian’s eventual death and funeral. This is where I really understood how much McMillian impacted Stevenson’s entire worldview. Stevenson basically concludes the book with a simple statement about how there is always room for positive transformation, and immediate punishment is not always the way. Mercy, just mercy can be the best way to treat even the evilest seeming people.
Unfairness in the Justice System in Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
The novel, Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson is his detailed narrative as a legal advocate for wrongly convicted and harshly sentenced individuals, particularly minorities. The book mainly focuses on the organization Steverson was co-founder of, “The Equal Justice Initiative” and Walter McMillian, a black man wrongfully accused of murder and put on death row in Alabama in the late 1980’s. McMillian was a successful businessman who lost his reputation after an affair with a white woman named Karen Kelly. Karen was involved in criminal activities with Ralph Myers, a mentally unstable white man who accused “Karen Black Boyfriend” of Ronda Morrison, a beloved local woman who was killed. Just Mercy really impacted me, unfairness in the justice system the predominance of racial minorities in jails and prisons suggests systemic bias. This book aggregates and personalizes the struggle against injustice in minorities.
The message of this book, hammered home by dramatic, I myself im a minority as Hispanic female and had family members that were affected with the unfairness in the justice system. I recently had an uncle that was deported to The Dominican Republic after being unfairly accused of sexual accusations that occurred about 5 years ago. After 5 years,the accuser recanted, however, nothing but anger and sadness to my family due to the fact that my uncle was not guilty, but due to how the justice system works he was claimed guilty for it all. Just like McMillian my uncle left behind his three kids and wife by themselves.
Unfairness in the Justice System is still happening to this day, just the other day Rodney Reed an African American convicted murderer who was sentenced to death for the abduction, rape and strangulation of Stacey Stites a white women on April 23, 1996, he was on Texas death row since 1998. The only evidence presented was the sperm collected from inside her, and the DNA was tested against Reed. Reed and Stites had an affair and the two had sex just days before Stites was found dead, which explains the DNA found inside her. Thanks to massive pressure, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered an indefinite stay of execution of Rodney. With this being said, just like the situation with my uncle, and McMillian, he was being accused for actions being done to white women without enough incriminating evidence.
Some of the legal topics in the book reminded me of a legal concept we discussed in class. One in particular was the Intentional Torts that can be described as the defamation of character which is what Ralph did to Walter when he was innocent. Also after Ralph accused Walter of the murder of a town racist sheriff persued Walters conviction and even suppressed evidence and bribed witnesses into false testimony. To sum it all up, it is obvious that “Just Mercy” presented a lot of the issues that are currently happening in this generation, racism is something that we are still fighting even though some people think that it ended decades ago.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: a Phenomenal Autobiography About Poverty and Justice
The book, Just Mercy, written by Bryan Stevenson, is a phenomenal autobiography worth reading. The book has received a tremendous amount of awards including the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work award. In the book Just Mercy, the author shares his life and experiences in Alabama, and how he supports innocent men on death row who were wrongly convicted. Throughout the different cases, we see how a great number of the men who are sentenced due to their race and vulnerability. Poverty is a major aspect that is portrayed in Just Mercy,and it was also very common for African Americans in the South during the 1980’s.
Walter’s Mcmillian’s case is the main storyline of the book. Walter was born into a povAfrican American family outside of Monroeville, Alabama. As an adult, Walter became a prosperous small businessman. He had an extensive, tight-knit family and several children with his lovely wife, Minnie. He was later involved in an affair with a white woman and was falsely incriminated of murdering a different white woman. The book is deticated around Stevenson’s efforts to get Walter’s conviction everted, so he can save him from the death penalty.
The main theme of this book, according to the author, is that “The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is Justice.” The author’s remark conveys how African Americans are being treated remarkably unfairly that not even a significant quantity of money can overcome the prejudice they deal with their everyday lives.
Throughout the book, Bryan Stevenson, illustrates the tone of hope. Mr. Stevenson’s hopeful tone is most detectable during cases of clients beginning to lose faith in themselves. Nonetheless, Bryan does not give up ambition in these circumstances, instead he pursues to exert all options accessible that may aid his clients. While writing Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson chose not only to write with a hopeful tone, but also with a cultivated and sagacious word choice. The author’s word selection found in Just Mercy shows how Mr. Stevenson is immensely equipped and agile within his field.
Just Mercy brings a new perspective to readers who never experienced African American injustice. The Washington Post describes the book by saying “Thanks in significant part to Stevenson’s brilliance and dedication to a cause that hasn’t always been popular, the situation in Alabama and across the land is improving. Stevenson is not only a great lawyer, he’s also a gifted writer and storyteller. His memoir should find an avid audience among players in the legal system — jurists, prosecutors, defense lawyers, legislators, academics, journalists — and especially anyone contemplating a career in criminal justice.”
The book is not only great for individuals who are wanting to read something new, but for college students in law school. The New York Times additionally mentioned how “The message of this book, hammered home by dramatic examples of one man’s refusal to sit quietly and countenance horror, is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. “Just Mercy” will make you upset and it will make you hopeful.” An audience looking for an invigorating book would be the best fit for this novel!
Racial Police Brutality in Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
In his book Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson tells the reader short stories about the cruelties he has witnessed as well as the cruelties his clients have encountered. Stevenson discusses many troubling stories about police brutality as well as inmates on death row that he has helped. In his book, Stevenson talks about the first inmate that he meets on death row and his encounter with him, and by introducing this story he gives a part of his personal experience and ends the story by telling the reader how the guard put the handcuffs extra tight on the inmate. Bryan Stevenson seems like a person that is dedicated to his job and looks forward to his work because he genuinely likes helping people.
Becoming an Attorney
In his book, Stevenson explains to the reader that he didn’t have much of a plan when he was in college and explains that he was a philosophy major, but wasn’t sure what his life would be like except that it would have to do with the lives of the poor. Post-graduation Stevenson realized that most advanced degrees require certain prerequisites while law school didn’t have any, so he decided to attend law school at Harvard. He later took an internship in Georgia dealing with a man on death row and decided that becoming an attorney was the way to go. All this information is in Stevenson’s book Just Mercy, but why did Stevenson decide to write this book? Stevenson wrote Just Mercy in a bibliography format, but he wrote his book with the intent to raise awareness of racial police brutality and to look for an end to it.
Throughout his book, Stevenson tells several stories about his encounters with inmates and police officers as well as some of the cases he took on during his career, but they all tend to have the same object. He wants to raise the emotion of the reader and depending on where he is heading next in his book he will determine what type of emotion he wants the reader to experience. In chapter 1 Stevenson talks about Walter McMillian one of his clients who against all odds was working for himself and was respected by many white people in his town which at the time was very uncommon. However, Walter made the mistake of adultery and that ruined his reputation around town and eventually implicated him in a crime he didn’t commit. The end of chapter one is summed up by saying, “But there was no evidence against McMillan-no evidence except that he was an African American man involved in an adulterous interracial affair, which meant he was reckless and possibly dangerous.” (Stevenson 34)
What Stevenson is saying is that because McMillan was involved in an adulterous interracial affair that was enough to convict him of a murder. The townspeople were pressuring the police to find the murder of the Morrison case and with that, the police found McMillan guilty of murder. Although, the man providing the information had sent them on a wild chase that resulted in nothing, and had proven that he didn’t even know what McMillan looked like. Furthermore, there was no evidence to prove the ridiculous theory that the police were looking in to. Stevenson told this story to set the mood for the book as the reader I felt an emotion of anger because I don’t think that just because you were involved in an act of adulterous interracial affair you should be condemned on murder. Stevenson decides to continue to enrage the reader as he proceeds on to chapter 2 by talking about another one of his clients.
As Stevenson is talking about his life he brings up this recent case he has just received, “The parents of a black teenager who had been shot and killed by police.” (Stevenson 38) When he writes about this he is attempting to appeal to the emotions of the reader because he wants the reader to be mad about what is going on with police brutality towards African Americans. Stevenson explains that the teenage boy had just gotten his license and ran a red light, so he was pulled over by a police officer. The teenage boy very nervously reached into his bag for his license but was shot by the police officer because he thought he was reaching for a weapon. The way Stevenson writes this is very effective because when I read this part it really upset me and infuriated me at the same time. As I read the book I found it clear that Stevenson wanted to bring out these types of emotions in the reader, so that the reader would fully understand why racial police brutality is an issue.
Letting into His Personal Life
From the very beginning, in Stevenson’s introduction, he lets you into his personal life as he talks to you about the time he was in school. He lets the reader into his life by telling us exactly what he was thinking, “Not long after I started classes at Harvard I began to worry I’d made the wrong choice.” (Stevenson 4) Lawyers are very confident people, so I don’t think any lawyer would tell you that they doubted themselves while in law school.
After this Stevenson goes on to reveal more information about his personal life to gain the trust of the reader so that he can later ask them to be a good ethical person. Stevenson continues to talk about his early years of law school and then he asks the reader to be a good ethical person. He says, “He looked immediately familiar to me, like everyone I’d grown up with, friends from school, people I played sport or music with, someone I’d talk to on the streets about the weather.” (Stevenson 9)
Although, Stevenson doesn’t ask you in written to trust this man because you should be a good person or an ethical one he does ask you. He describes this man as a regular person who you could know in your life because he seems like a friend or a very approachable person. This being despite that he is on the death row for a crime he was convicted of. Now for Stevenson to be able to do this he had to earn your trust which is why at the beginning of the introduction he opened himself up to the reader and shared personal information. Stevenson lets the reader into his life very early on, so that in later chapters he can ask the reader to trust him and persuade the reader to make an ethical decision.
Throughout his book, Stevenson talks about his cases and tends to through in facts so that he can assure the reader that what they are reading is the truth and to strengthen his argument. For example, Stevenson is talking about the McMillian, “The legislator shall never pass any law to authorize or legalize any marriage between any white person and a Negro or descendant of a Negro.” (Stevenson 29) Since the McMillian case was basically breaking that law he thought it would be important to include this fact to show that although this seems like a ridiculous law it was in fact real. Stevenson also includes that Alabama didn’t remove this ban until 2000 when it received enough votes to have it placed on a ballet and have it removed.
I myself did not know about that ban so when he wrote about it I was a bit skeptical but as I continued reading and he provided facts about it I realized it to be true and that it was something very serious. As Stevenson begins to build up his argument about how police officers tend to respond differently to a typical call depending on the race of the suspect he includes facts to strengthen his argument. Stevenson writes, “I found that Bureau of Justice statistics reporting that black men were eight times more likely to be killed by the police than whites.” (Stevenson 43) This shows that the argument that Stevenson was beginning to formulate was very accurate, so by adding this fact it strengthened his overall argument. Also, he tells the reader that he got it from the Bureau of Justice and not just some website that he found online. By showing the reader that he got this fact from a credible source show that Stevenson did his research before throwing around claims that might not be true.
Overall, I strongly feel that Bryan Stevenson wrote his book Just Mercy because he wanted to raise awareness of racial police brutality and in hopes that people would learn to take this seriously and find a way to stop it. In a recent interview, Stevenson is asked, “Do we need to more actively address the full truth about racial inequality in the justice system? How can we begin to do this?” to which he responded with, “I do believe we have a history of racial injustice in this country that we have failed to address or to discuss adequately.” (Seaman 9) This shows us that Stevenson does feel that racial police brutality is an issue in the United States and it needs to be resolved. Which suggest that Stevenson may have written Just Mercy to talk about police brutality towards African Americans.
However, I am not the only one to think that this could be the purpose of this book, “More than a memoir, Stevenson’s book provides a vivid picture of the systemic injustice that often persists in the administration of criminal justice, particularly in the South.” (Berry III 331) William W. Berry III wrote a book review about Stevenson’s book Just Mercy talks about the corruption throughout the justice system. Berry is saying that the book outlines a lot of the problems with the justice system and how it is unfair towards African Americans. I fully agree with his claims because I also feel that Just Mercy was written to bring attention to racial police brutality.
Problems Presented in “Just Mercy”
In the first case presented in Just Mercy, we can already see how difficult it is for trials to be reevaluated even if they are flagrant examples of injustice. Many of the people also held extreme bias toward convicted prisoners. Before reading Just Mercy I probably would have agreed that convicted prisoners did not deserve an appeal or another trial. I did not really think about how easy it would be for an easy or vulnerable target to have an unjust ruling. The people who hold the bias not only are like me and are just ignorant toward the plight of the prisoners, but some could care less. They think that whether or not they deserve their punishment is irrelevant and to keep the system running smoothly that there needs to be as many executions as quickly as possible. This is especially since many of the unfairly convicted are some type of minority whether by race, gender, or social status. You can also see that many of the officials were aggravated by Stevenson’s attempts to rectify any of the unjust cases. This causing an interruption in what they think should be a smooth, simple process. In addition to reduce the likelihood of someone like Stevenson trying to retry a case by prompting witnesses to give a false testimony and give the defense an even more narrow ledge to stand on. Another way that trials are falsified is by allowing biased juries to serve. In many of the cases mentioned the juries have the potential to have a racial bias. This is because many lawyers would strike any of the black jurors from serving so that they would have an all or mostly white jury trying a black person. Or in Marsha’s case “numerous jurors announced they could not be impartial toward Mrs. Colby” (just mercy, 235). This shows the lack of regard for fairness in a trial. The fact that prosecution lawyers could get rid of most or all the black jurors and allow biased juries to serve was very surprising to me. Especially since they could this unchecked or stopped by anyone. Because I have never had any experience with criminal court I had the preconceived notion that trials were held fairly and there were checks in place to make sure that both sides were fair. Another thing that was surprising was the ability of false experts to testify without having to prove their qualifications. In a case like George’s case where he was reviewed by a false expert. The supposed expert had lied about his qualifications and had deemed people of sound mental state even when they clearly were not. “There are likely hundreds of other people after an evaluation by ‘Dr. Seger’ whose convictions have never been reviewed.” (191). This is just another flagrant example of a flawed justice system, it hurts some of the people who need help the most. Furthermore, even if a case is reviewed and the person deemed not guilty there is very limited support and money as reparations. In Just Mercy Stevenson explicitly states, “Most people released from prison after being proved innocent receive no money, no assistance, no counseling- nothing from the state that wrongly imprisoned them.” (244). Even after going through such an ordeal they are still denied help and any sort of reparations. These different ways that the justice system itself and the officials who help run it show that their needs to be change. There needs to be more regulations of what happens in the court room and how trials are run.
In Just Mercy nearly all the juvenile cases mentioned shocked me. The juvenile system seemed to harm the children that had to go before it, giving them harsher sentences than an adult would have to endure. The juvenile system allowed children to be tried as adults and put in adult prisons. In cases like Trina’s where she had a long and troubling history of being raped, abused, homeless, and having frequent stints in a hospital due to mental problems. She was extremely lonely and she and a friend decided to go see some boys that their mother had forbidden them from seeing her. She broke into the house and accidentally started a fire. The two boys died from suffocation from smoke. Trina was tried as an adult and put in an adult prison. Once she was there as an already damaged and traumatized child she was raped by a prison guard. She got pregnant and had her child taken from her. I felt horribly for her because she had a life full of struggle and because of her poor mental health and loneliness she made a poor choice. And in lieu of that decision the one system in place to try and protect her just destroyed her further. This is not the only case of the juvenile justice system harming the children that come into it. Another case where a little boy was put into an adult prison and raped as well. I did feel less sympathetic toward his case since he made the decision to murder his mother’s abusive boyfriend. I did however feel sympathy for the situation he was in, he had to live with someone who abused his mother frequently and there was nothing he could do. So, by the juvenile justice system allowing another broken child to be put in a situation where they would be completely vulnerable is a huge problem. The system is supposed to protect minors and even when it tries to do so it still causes harm in another way. In Ian’s case he was sentenced to life in prison for a non-fatal crime. At the beginning of this case I felt little sympathy for Ian in the fact that he made a choice to commit an armed robbery and ended up shooting her in the face. But at the end after learning he was sentenced to life in prison and put in solitary I became extremely sympathetic. He was placed in solitary because they did not want to put him into a situation where he would be around other prisoners. The idea had the right intent but ended up causing him to harm himself and have intense depression. This is because he would go days deprived of talking to another human being. He had meals given to him through a flap. This just goes to show how unjust a sentenced for life in prison without parole is for a minor. This is a problem as well as the fact that children can be sentenced to death. In Just Mercy Stevenson brings up the case of a little boy named George. He was arrested for the murder and rape of two little white girls. There was no evidence that he was the murderer. He was only convicted because he was the last person to see the girls alive. He was sentenced to death. In Just Mercy Stevenson describes him as “small even for his age five foot two, ninety-two-pound Stinney walked up to the chair with a bible in his hand. He had to sit on the book when prison staff couldn’t find the electrodes to fit his small frame.” (158). This makes George even more of a pitiable kid, not only was he terrified with no family present and falsely accused, but he was sentenced to death at fourteen years old. Therefore, I agree with Stevenson and his support for the supreme court decisions to allow parole for minors and to have the death sentence be deemed cruel and unusual punishment.
A common theme in many unjust cases is that they are poorly represented by state appointed lawyers. The lawyers generally do not prepare or research their client’s past. This is because the lawyers can generally only earn $1,000. Thus, causing most of the lawyers to nit represent their clients well. One outstanding example of poor representation is Daniel’s case where his lawyers not only did not look at his history, but they filed a civil suit against each other. His mother offered the lawyers his most recent paycheck to use as evidence of his mental illness and they cashed it. They ended up providing no defense for George Daniel and he ended up being sentenced to death. Furthermore, when state appointed lawyers fail to represent their client they leave an already disenfranchised person in an even more difficult situation. This is because the people who need the state representation are ones who cannot afford another lawyer, and that could be for a multitude of reasons. This is another situation where Trina was failed, her lawyer presented no evidence of her troubled past. She had been abused, raped, and homeless for her entire childhood. The lawyer representing her did not bring this up in court and she was given life in prison. Lastly Avery’s case was very similar to Trina’s, he had been abused and abandoned by foster home parents, his really parents had died by the time he was one. He began to abuse drugs at a young age. This was on top of the fact that he already had severe mental handicaps and brain tissue damage. Just like Trina he was convicted without having any defense that spoke to his motives. Neither Trina nor Avery meant any harm by their crime but were both convicted to the highest stature possible. Once in prison both Trina and Avery suffered from seizures and other sorts of problems and were shown no leniency even though it was clear they were both ill. By having virtually no defense it makes it so that these people are unfairly prosecuted. All in all, by lawyers not feeling that they are being paid fairly for the work and amount of preparation they needed to do causes already vulnerable people to be even more so. The lawyers spend more time fighting for the money or just do not do anything and take the money anyway. By not giving any testament to the reasoning behind their actions the lawyers are just condemning their clients to an unfavorable outcome. There needs to be either a higher wage for government hired defense lawyers or more checks on if they are doing their job in representing their clients accurately and giving them the best chance for a good outcome.
Just Mercy changed my opinion on how women are treated in the criminal and prison systems. I did not realize exactly how vulnerable women in these systems are. Stevenson explicitly says, “most women on death row are awaiting execution for a family crime involving an allegation of child abuse or domestic violence involving a male partner.” (231). This shows how women are being harshly prosecuted for more minor offenses. Another example is a woman who was sentenced to ten years in prison for overdrawing her bank account so she could buy toys for her children. Another phenomenon that causes problems for many women is the “bad moms” (233). Many people were trying to find and prosecute what they deemed to be “bad moms”. This made it so women who had stillborn babies had their neighbors poking around in their private life and causing women to be at risk of being arrested. This is because even when women would have stillborn babies there was a chance that a false expert would claim that they were not stillborn. This would cause these women to be prosecuted on murder charges because their child is under 14. I think that this trend is awful. The idea is that they are helping children in bad situations but instead what they are doing is taking a mother away from any other children she has and prosecuting her, many times falsely. By removing a mother from her children, the children are left further unprotected. If there is no father to take care of them the children could end up in more dangerous situations or foster care. This is also in addition to the fact that women could be sent to prison for using drugs or drinking during a pregnancy. This is because it created a dangerous situation for the unborn child. Even so once convicted women are placed in an extremely dangerous situation, in Just Mercy Stevenson discuses, “The male warden allowed the male guards into the showers during prison counts. Officers leered at naked women and made crude comments and suggestive threats.” (238). This opens women up to sexual assault and further harassments. It is also mentioned that the guards are allowed into the bathrooms and there would many occurrences of a woman being raped. These stories are horrifying, these women being arrested for such minor offenses and being forced to leave their children alone. In the book it did not appear to be one of Stevenson’s main focuses and I feel that these women need to be given more help. The justice system is supposed to help protect citizens not to open them up to further harm. This is another instance where there is damage being done. Stevenson does mention that there is a reform and male guards are no longer allowed in the bathroom area, but I feel that more needs to be done to protect the women that fall under that jurisdiction.
Many of the people put in prison are those who suffer from mental impairments. In Just Mercy, Stevenson includes “Today, over 50% of prison and jail inmates in the United States have a diagnosed mental illness”. (188). This shows you how prisons are being treated as a place to throw those who do not blend well in society. Of those people with mental illnesses there is a large population of them who committed horrific crimes without being aware they were. For example, in Avery’s case he was convicted of murder after he, in a state of hallucination, stabbed a man to death. Another case is George’s case, he wandered around into people’s houses until the police were called. Once called George got into a fight with the police and ended up denotating a police gun. In both Avery’s and George’s case they were convicted and given the death penalty. This is because many of the people with mental disabilities did not have adequate representation and ended up at the mercy of the court. Prison life once convicted as well is extremely difficult. There are many rules and regulations put forth that made it exceptionally difficult for these people to survive. One such rule is that prisoners must have their hands cuffed before having anyone enter their cell. For prisoners who have seizures or any type of psychotic episode they cannot get the help need because they cannot put out their arms to have them handcuffed. I feel that there needs to be more protection for people in the system with mental illnesses. Stevenson says that there are more and more laws being enacted to protect them. There was a ruling that deemed it cruel and unusual to give the death sentence to people with mental illnesses. Though there should be further help for those in prison.
Summary of “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson
Reading Just Mercy made me ponder over a few things. Bryan Stevenson’s book is about granting mercy on everyone. We all make mistakes, and we all want to be forgiven. I liked how Stevenson saw federal punishment as even more violence; it wasn’t doing any good or making any progress with society. There is not one human being that is perfect all around. We all mess up and we fail to meet society’s standards. Most mistakes come from brokenness and damage in our past, but if we tap into their minds and realize that we all mess up, we can grant mercy and forgive each other.
There have been plenty of times that I have been treated differently because of my skin color. I know it’s the 21st century and racial tension was way worst back then than it is now, but it is heartbreaking to know that this is still going on and hasn’t really made a huge difference in progress. I look on the news and I see black men getting beat and shot by white police men, and it hurts my heart. I understand that being a police officer can be a very difficult job, but I just wonder what goes through their mind to brutally beat someone. I wish they grant mercy on those men. They may have been called out, or arrested for a reason, but brutally beating or taking their life may not have been the only answer. Then I think back and realize that society has been worked up about all the police beatings, yet it has been going on for years. We also must realize that we must show mercy on those police men. They are humans just as much as I am. My cousins and I would walk down the street sometimes, and white men would yell and threaten us to get off their yard or curse us to get out the road when we weren’t in the road in the first place. No, I wasn’t brutally beaten or killed, but it is still the same concept of merciless and unforgiveness.
I understand that it isn’t just black people that deal with tension in our society. During the Civil Rights movement, if a white family was sociable with a black family, the white family was shunned and treated just as badly as the blacks. We are all humans, just because we look different doesn’t mean we are enemies. Just Mercy wanted this to be known that we are all humans and that we should have mercy on everyone and forgive others. Bryan Stevenson served as an attorney for accused blacks because he had insight of their lives; whether if they truly committed the crime or not. Stevenson saw that everyone should be granted mercy and another chance. If we don’t forgive and show mercy, we will not make any progress of becoming a united country. We’ll be torn into many sides and it will be a huge war between race and social classes. We must accept each other as who we have become and show each other mercy and forgiveness. If it is not these things, it is hatred.