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The Flaws Of American Criminal Justice System In Just Mercy

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

The United States of America, the “land of the free,” is not living up to its own ideals of freedom. Our criminal justice system is unjust and discriminatory towards people of color and low socioeconomic status. They’re more likely to receive a death penalty sentence than a white person because race and finacial assets, unfortunately, are indicators that determine who gets the death penalty. It has turned into a system of oppression for the poor, defenseless, and falsely convicted. The injustices that occur in our criminal justice system aren’t being addressed. In Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson seeks to correct this societal wrong by championing for the rights of death penalty recipients; he appeals to pathos, demonstrating that injustice is present in the criminal justice system and death penalty, but justice and mercy can still be obtained for those who are suffering in these unfair systems.

Stevenson draws attention to some of the flaws in the criminal justice system through the case of Walter McMillian. While Stevenson described the police’s detainment and abuse of Walter based off Ralph Myers’ false testimony, he appealed to pathos to stimulate agitation and hope within his once clueless audience. Stevenson notes, during his first visit with Walter’s family, the conversation he had with Walter’s older sister, Armelia Hand. She stated, “…the police come along months later, say he killed somebody miles away at the same time we were standing next to him. Then they take him away when you know it’s a lie,” appealing to pathos by explaining the primary reason why Stevenson is heavily invested in Walter’s case. In spite of the fact that Walter was wrongly convicted and sent to death row, Stevenson refused to surrender without a fight and the grittiness he displayed in the whole process made Walter feel that there was someone who still cared about him in the criminal justice system. Stevenson never left Walter’s side and this allowed him to passionately pursue the vindication that Walter and his family were seeking despite opposition from the criminal justice system. Walter’s experience on death row is an appeal to pathos as it describes the effects that Walter and his family went through; it was painful for both of them. Most people love their family members unconditionally and can imagine the anguish Walter’s family must have felt. By mentioning Walter’s sister, Stevenson appeals to familial sentiments and proposes that perseverance can go a long way towards achieving fairness and equity in the criminal justice system.

Another displeasure that Stevenson voices about the criminal justice system are the ramifications of being sentenced to death row unfairly. One argument that Stevenson makes against the death penalty is the tedious process of establishing innocence and the toll it can take on someone’s body and/or mental health. Walter, during his five years on death row, endured multiple trials and hearings and was exposed to a deteriorating environment. It really affected him because he wasn’t the same person after the entire legal process. The appeal to pathos is made clear in the text when Bryan Stevenson observes Walter’s changed behavior by saying, ‘…He began drinking heavily, something he’d never done before. He told me that he was anxious all the time and that the alcohol calms his nerves’. Obviously, time spent on death row had serious effects on Walter even though he ended up getting released and overturning the court’s original decision thanks to Stevenson’s legal representation. But, seeing as many never get the opportunity to leave, those still on death row are consistently being put through heavy trauma. By describing the side effects that Walter obtained from being on death row, Stevenson attempts to resonate with his audience’s sense of humanity in order to create sympathy for Walter’s unjustly dilemma through pathos. This leads to even more understanding as to why Stevenson is so committed to fighting for not just Walter, but people who have similar cases as well. Those who have been affected by false convictions personally or indirectly can relate to the difficulty and trauma that proving innocence can cause. Despite the hardship that criminal trials can produce, it is necessary to fight for justice because it can potentially save an innocent life. Stevenson realized this and it’s one of the reasons why he’s committed to defend the poor, voiceless, wrongly convicted, etc. Walter was clearly innocent of the crime, but the justice system said otherwise. Stevenson’s frustration with the criminal justice system is, therefore, completely justified because there were injustices present in Walter’s case, but they weren’t addressed until a court appeal was made by Stevenson himself.

Moreover, Stevenson also points out that the death penalty racially profiles people of color. They’re more likely to receive the death penalty than a white person because race and capital, unfortunately, determines who gets the death penalty in the US. This is proven when Bryan Stevenson writes, ‘We’re supposed to sentence people fairly after fully considering their life circumstances, but instead we exploit the inability of the poor to get the legal assistance they need–all so we can kill them with less resistance’. This appeals to pathos because the justice system we currently have in place doesn’t want to waste its time dealing with people of color. They automatically assume minorities are guilty even though everyone in the US is innocent until proven otherwise. Stevenson notices the maltreatment of the justice system towards people of color and low socioeconomic status in the cases of Walter McMillian and Jimmy Dill. Both were racially and socially discriminated against. They were targeted for being minorities and subjected to adversity. Societal wrongs like these support Stevenson’s argument against the death penalty.

To reinforce his argument against the death penalty and prove that the criminal justice system hasn’t been fixed, Stevenson gave a statistic on US incarceration rates. Stevenson writes, ‘The prison population has increased from 300,000 people in the early 1970s to 2.3 million people today’. Unfortunately, the sad part about this fact is that kids are also included in the prison population consensus. Some states prosecute children as adults, and we’re the only country in the world who does this. Stevenson includes this statistic to bring awareness to how effortless the justice system convicts people in the US and why the country is not living up to its own ideals of freedom. Prejudice is constantly created through this faulty system where it affects millions of people’s lives from all ages, genders, races, etc. Stevenson argues that we have transformed into a harsh nation that is focused on mass imprisonment. Justice for the innocent, poor, oppressed, and defenseless is simply not a priority for prisons and instead, unfortunately, jails are seen as profitable investments. Through Bryan Stevenson’s inspiring work and experience, however, there is hope that the justice system can be reformed and equity can be accessible for all, including those who are marginalized in society.

In conclusion, it’s clear the injustices that occur in our criminal justice system aren’t being addressed. In Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson seeks to correct this societal wrong by championing for the rights of death penalty recipients; he appeals to pathos, demonstrating that injustice is indeed present in the criminal justice system and death penalty, but justice and mercy can still be obtained for those who are suffering in these unfair systems.

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