By Dagny Broome
Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization that attempts to promulgate fairness in the criminal justice system. In his new book, Just Mercy, Mr. Stevenson vividly describes his career, from the very first cases he took as a young lawyer in the south to the founding of the Equal Justice Initiative which is now a national organization.
His journey started when he took the case of Walter McMillian, a man who was on death row for allegedly killing a white woman. McMillian’s case was riddled with racism and assumptions about the black community that resulted in condemning an innocent man to death. Stevenson was able to take the case and prove his innocence. The journey that he took through the case taught him about how fulfilling and how difficult seeking justice can be.
Stevenson was not only fighting for those that were innocent, but those that experienced unfair prejudice and hardship within the system. Even those that committed crimes are entitled to a fair trial and the full protection of the law. Stevenson outlines this sort of mentality throughout the book stressing that individual cases show a small picture of the larger problems that plague the courts.
In the end, Stevenson comes to a realization about innocence and justice work. As human beings, we are all broken in some way. Those that work within the system feel as though healing the cracks in others helps heal the cracks within themselves. The work that is done is not only right, it is necessary. This work will always be necessary since the courts are a human system which is always bound to have flaws. All that we can do is strive to ensure that the system is as fair as we can make it. Although Stevenson’s story includes both triumphs and failures, his steadfast belief that one person can make a difference resulted in several success stories that have made all the difference in the lives of hundreds of people.