Just Mercy - Essay Example

Published: 2021-08-10
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Vanderbilt University
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Critical thinking
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Just Mercy is criminal justice book that powerfully demonstrates how deeply unfairness brutality and racism has continued to infect criminal law in America. Bryan Stevenson wrote the book; a lawyer determined to bring justice to the wrongly condemned hence an end to death penalties in America. Bryan was a black American who saw his family went through hardship during his childhood. Stevenson grew up as a humble person in Delaware with his great-grandparents were slaves in Virginia. The book focuses on clients he represented in the court. The manuscript describes the rotten justice system of America and the segregation that exists (Roberts, 2015). Stevenson vowed to fight injustice and bring hope to the hopeless. Against tremendous odds, the author has done an excellent job to free many people from excessive or wrongful condemnations by arguing five times before the Supreme Court.

During his third year at Harvard law school, he was an intern at Georgia where his first assignment was to represent a death-row inmate. In the case of Walter Macmillan, the writer used it to demonstrate how the justice system is fond of tolerating unfairness as well as victimizing the condemned (Stevenson, 2015). The convict was a young man, who was sentenced for a notorious murder of a white woman what he did not admit doing. In the book, Bryan argues that each of us is more than the worst things weve done, therefore granting mercy can help in preventing the cycle of violence. Bryan found it wrong convicting criminals to death regardless the intensity of their crimes. In the Macmillan case, Stevenson was drawn into a tangle of conspiracy legal brinkmanship and political intrigue, and it was from it that the writer came to understand mercy and justice. The pardon of Walter one of Bryans great achievement since the case played out in a town immortalized by Harper Lee. Walter served six years on the death row for the crime he never committed. In his narration, Walter states, Walters case taught me that fear and anger are a threat to justice; they can infect a community, a state, or a nation and make us blind, irrational and dangerous (Stevenson, 2015). After many years of struggle, Stevenson manages to get justice for his client. Regardless of the many witnesses that were forced to lie on the case justice was served at last.

Racism was rampant in the US, and the author saw his people suffer because of their color. This segregation not only existed among the people but also in the jury (Stevenson, 2015). According to the writer, black people were treated harshly with unfavorable penalties as compared to the white population. Like in the case of Michael Lindsey, one of his client who went to Alabama electric chair at the age of 28. Michael was black and convicted of the murder of a 63 years white woman (Stevenson, 2015). In this case, Lindsey guilt was never a deal to the jury since the ruling would be based on the race. It was evident that when blacks are involved in cases with whites, they would always get harsh sentences that when the races are reversed (Stevenson, 2015). The judges had no time to listen to the fact but instead make their judgment based nationality.

The unfair treatment of a particular group of people in America has enlarged the gap that exists between the whites and the color population hence unequal treatment (Walker, Spohn, & DeLone, 2017). In most cases, unfairness has led to the uneven distribution of power in America where some groups are perceived to be powerful than the others. People seek justice from the courts, and the jury must ensure that justice is served all. The judges should stand with the truth regardless of their races what never existed in America hence the blacks got the worst penalties as the whites could get away with minor ones (Walker, Spohn, & DeLone, 2017). In America, the term crime is never used to describe all the worst actions that cause sufferings and misery to American but is reserved for the dangerous activities of the poor (Reiman & Leighton, 2017 ). In America, blacks are always seen as the nasty criminals following the verdict they get from the juries. Just like in 1974 when 58% of daring acts were associated with blacks in America, they are still perceived to be the gang robbers and drug dealers within the states. The racism that Stevenson worked hard to eradicate still exist to date.

Stevenson was eager to understand why adolescent like the boy who killed his grandfather are prone to committing a crime. Most adolescents are under 18 years who still depend on their parents (Roberts, 2015). Bryan failed to understand why the juvenile prisons were full what made him question the justice system. The worst part of it was permitting the death penalty on children while others are convicted to life imprisonment without parole (Stevenson, 2015). In his quest to find the truth, Stevenson decided to represent most inmates sentenced to life in prison following their crimes as juveniles. While contesting these cases in court, he emphasized by stating the inconsistency of not allowing children to smoke, drink, vote. because of their well-recognized lack of maturing and judgment while simultaneously treating some of the most at-risk, neglected, and injured children the same as full grown adults in the criminal justice system.

According to the author, the justice system was infringing on the rights of these children. One of the impaired children was Evans miller who was convicted at 14 years when he and his friends beat to death a middle-aged man after taking drugs together (Stevenson, 2015). In such a case, the victim was at fault, and any rational jury needs to dig deep into the matter. The murdered man was old enough to be the convicts parent and therefore was responsible for all that happened. At 14 years, a child is too young to be condemned since they are not entirely grown to understand many things in life (Phillips & Bowling, 2017). In some cases, the suspects usually commit crimes as a way of self-defense hence not guilty. While working on this case, the writer experienced tragic defeats, but that did not kill his quest for justice for his clients (Stevenson, 2015).

Just Mercy is one of the criminal justice books that any student pursuing law studies would love to read. Bryan Stevenson is one of the leading voices that fought for reforms in the justice system of America what this book thoroughly explains. It can potentially change the mindset of the learners as well as help them decide on what they want to be in future. By reading the book, the students can understand what matters to them, their curiosity, and their passion and where to be after college to make that change they want. The author has shared a lot of his success and how he managed to accomplish them what can have a significant impact on law students. From the book, they can learn how people are wrongly accused and even be sentenced to death. Like in Walters case, the innocent man was put on the death row for six years without yet being trialed just because of his race. The powerful can take advantage of the people and minorities whether in the justice system or outside and nothing can be done (Walker, Spohn, & DeLone, 2017). For the faint-hearted, the book can motivate them to seek justice at whatever cost. The student will be able to know what to fight for and how to succeed in their quest for truth.

The book is also significant for the lawmakers that are already practicing especially prosecutors and judges. Following how Bryan fought for his clients including those convicted of crimes, the juries can grab a lot of information from the cases. Having known all that inmates have done, Stevenson did not see it right condemning them to death. According to the author, what can bring violence to an end is just granting mercy to the offenders. In his arguments, he tries to open the eyes of the jury to the pure truth. The book can guide the lawmakers and judges on how to go about their cases as well as passing judgments. The book also explains how offensive and damaging it is to accuse and sentence an innocent man wrongly. After being charged falsely with murder, Walters life changed utterly. After being placed on death row, the convict almost lost his mind since he could not believe where he was on every single day (Phillips & Bowling, 2017). The jury, as well as police, can learn the importance of adequate investigation and trial of the victims before conviction of the suspects.



Phillips, C., & Bowling, B. (2017). 8. Ethnicities, racism, crime, and criminal justice. Law Trove. doi:10.1093/he/9780198719441.003.0009

Reiman, J. H., & Leighton, P. (2017). The rich get richer, and the poor get prison: Ideology, class, and criminal justice. Taylor & Francis Journals.

Roberts, R. (2015). Racism and criminal justice. Criminal Justice Matters, 101(1), 18-20. doi:10.1080/09627251.2015.1080941

Stevenson, B. (2015). Just mercy: A story of justice and redemption. New York: Spiegel & Grau.

Walker, S., Spohn, C., & DeLone, M. (2017). The color of justice: Race, ethnicity, and crime in America.


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