Book Review: Just Mercy


Title: Just Mercy
Author: Bryan Stevenson
Genre: Nonfiction – Social Justice
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Publication Date: October 21, 2014
Pages: 336
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: October 11, 2019

Goodreads Description: Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

My Review: I believe I first heard Bryan Stevenson 5 years ago on The Daily Show and was really impressed. After reading his book Just Mercy, I am more than impressed. Whatever your thoughts are on capital punishment – for or against – this book is bound to produce an emotional response. For me, I could only handle reading a little bit of this book everyday or I would just get too upset.

While Bryan Stevenson writes about specific cases he took on, as legal consul for death row inmates, this book is more than just about capital punishment. It highlights flaws in our justice and prison systems.

“It is about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.”

Bryan Stevenson in the late 1980s founded EJI, the Equal Justice Initiative. This non-profit focuses on the following: “We were assisting clients on death row; challenging excessive punishments; helping disabled prisoners; assisting children incarcerated in the adult system; and looking at ways to expose racial bias, discrimination against the poor and the abuse of power.”

Bryan Stevenson discusses a few specific cases and highlights the difficulties of fighting for broken people in a broken system of justice. This isn’t just about death row and the death penalty but about mental illness, overcrowding and abuse in our prison systems, and overall injustice and inequality. If this book teaches the reader anything, it is about the value of compassion and mercy.

This book is definitely worth the read. However, if you don’t think you can take the time, I just found out that this story, focusing primarily on the Walter McMillian case, is becoming a film, which will be released in a couple months. 

“We all need mercy; we all need justice; and perhaps we all need some measure of merited grace.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 


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