Skip to main content

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson


In this day and age, it's very unusual to go a month or a week even (sometimes days) without hearing about some sort of injustice in the criminal justice system. It just seems that there are so many exonerations and overcrowded jails. Our politicians are trying to figure out ways to reduce the prison population. Studies are constantly coming out that cast doubt on parts of cases that were once considered airtight. But most recently, in addition to the racial dynamics that exist between police and suspects, there has been much debate about capital punishment, particularly in light of botched executions.
I heard about this book on NPR and saw it being sold in Starbucks.  In a prior life, I did criminal defense work so I'm always interested in books that come out on this subject and this book in particular intrigued me because it was written as a memoir by a guy that actually practiced and did capital work.  Bryan Stevenson grew up poor and a minority in Delaware and his great-grandparents had been slaves in Virginia. He attended Harvard Law school and afterward began defending poor people in Georgia through the Equal Law Initiative. He eventually moved to Alabama and began capital work.
This book focuses on that work with Walter McMilian's case forming most of the story for it. Stevenson was representing him in the late 80's after he got put on death row for murdering a white woman in Monroeville, AL - if that name sounds familiar it's because it's been made famous by To Kill a Mockingbird. I found myself quickly drawn in to the story. The book does have quirks though that sometimes made it hard to get through. A lot of the stories are 30 or more years old and yet, you get the impression that they just happened last year or are currently happening now. Dialogue has to be reconstituted - there's no way it can be verbatim. There is little that makes you feel connected or intimate with the person in the story, even though Stephenson tries.  I think much is probably because of confidentiality issues, but it still leaves much to be desired.
That being said, we are very familiar with how he feels about things.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

In Memoriam

One of my most favorite bookish podcasts, Books on the Nightstand, has ended its tremendously successful run.  It has been around seemingly forever and was one of my staples in book recommendations. It will be sorely missed and leaves a space in my podcast listening zone that I'm striving to fill.  While I understand that the podcast em-cees, Michael and Anne, have their own lives that they probably want to continue with (and podcasting takes a lot of time, particularly when you're as popular as they are and, for example, as popular as the Manic Mommies are/were), they will be sorely missed.  However you can find them on both Goodreads and on Twitter.

In anticipation of their ultimate decision to end the podcast, I found a number of other really awesome podcasts to fill the void, some of which are bookish and some of which aren't.  For your listening pleasure:


BookRiot - more of a news in the publishing industry podcast but still pretty awesome;All the Books - a weekly po…

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

You may recognize the author's name - Krakauer is perhaps most famous for the book Into the Wild about a young man that goes to Alaska (and which was made into a movie).  I enjoyed that book and when I heard on a podcast that I listen to that Krakuer had written a new book, I decided to get it and read it.  In this book, which is non fiction - he focuses on the University of Montana, the local police department and at the local prosecutor's office and analyzes their job performances through the eyes of five young women who were sexually assaulted. During this same period, the Department of Justice investigated how those same parties handled 80 rape cases and that investigation yielded dismaying results. In one instance, a detective re assured a male suspect during an interrogation that she didn't believe he committed a rape (despite evidence to the contrary) because they got a lot of false accusations. Similarly, the Chief of Police (!!!) sent an article to a victim citin…

City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

I was hesitant to pick up Justin Cronin's trilogy, which began with The Passage, because I was vampired out.  But it's different. It combines science fiction and westerns and spans about 1500 pages and 1000 years and generations, upon generations of people.  It's dystopian and hopeful all at the same time! The vampires don't sparkle, thankfully, and the story isn't just told in prose - it's told via letters, journals, scientific journals, flashback, the whole nine yards.
As the book opens, we find our beloved characters in a time of peace and relative prosperity.  There have been no viral attacks for twenty years. The main characters are all struggling with something that has broken them and they each struggle. And there was also Zero, the ultimate bad guy, that wants his say and his ultimate revenge. This book is wonderful in the sense that it is Cronin at his absolute best - he is a storyteller on par with perhaps the best of the fantasy writers - of any w…