Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy is a rather compelling book to read. It deals about the legal crisis concerning the poor and marginalized in the United States. Stevenson works with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to help people on death row. EJI is trying to stop the death penalty. It’s their attempt to do something about prison conditions and excessive punishment. EJI wants to free people who are wrongly convicted. It’s an attempt to end unfair sentences in criminal cases and stop racial bias in the criminal justice system.
EJI is working to provide the legal help for people who don’t have the means for such legal defense. It’s attempting to have children not tried as adults. This organization is looking out for the mentally ill in prison. They hope do something also about poverty that dominates the poor communities. EJI is pushing to see more diversity in the decision-making process in the justice system. And they are trying to educate people about the real issues about racial diversity and the need for racial justice. Its EJI attempts to confront the abuse of power by the police and prosecutors.
The EJI stands for compassion, justice, and mercy. Many adults have been wrongly prosecuted and sentenced to death. Stevenson attempts to have new trials for these individuals in many states spread across the nation. One prominent victory was that of an African American man named Walter McMillian. It took appeals, counter appeals, and the case even made its way to the Supreme Court. Eventually after spending many years in prison Walter was released. He then became a spokesman with Stevenson for those wrongly convicted and awaiting execution by the electric chair on death row. But not all cases Stevenson was able to find justice. Some innocent individuals were put to death because of a corrupt justice system. This reality would break Stevenson’s heart, and even made him question if he should persevere in his career fighting for the rights of abused people.
But what really got to Stevenson was the children who were sentenced to death and life imprisonment. After trials and counter trials some of these cases were argued before Appeals Courts, and made their way to the Supreme Court. EJI was able to win these cases before the Supreme Court that made it illegal to sentence children to death. Later the Supreme Court ruled that children couldn’t be sentenced to life imprisonment that it considered cruel and unusual punishment. There were further victories in the Supreme Court that favored the rights of the handicapped in prison.
AJI challenged states concerning the rights of women. Some of these cases dealt with women who were on death row for murdering their children. Some of the cases were flawed because their crimes weren’t properly litigated. Yet some women were on death row because they were accused to killing their children at birth. These babies were still births. The prosecution didn’t handle these cases well. In cases it was because these women were poor, mentally challenged, and marginalized. Cases like these were eventually overturned because of rulings by the Supreme Court. AJI was able to win hundreds of victories for the poor, and marginalized people in many states.