Just Mercy:
A Story of Justice
and Redemption

 

 

 
Quite simply, this book will break your heart. As a young African American lawyer come from poverty, Bryan Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice in the American South dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of the criminal justice system. After a harrowing twenty-five years spent in the trenches, MacArthur “Genius” Stevenson offers up this searing, brilliantly researched account of how “politics of fear and rage” have derailed the American justice system.

In Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, we meet two Stevensons: the naïve young lawyer and the wiser-but-weary middle-aged warrior. More importantly, the author Stevenson humanizes his clients, both innocent and guilty, and challenges damning, prevailing narratives about so-called offenders. Just Mercy manages to achieve both depth and breadth by alternating masterfully between a page-turning, in-depth profile of one egregiously unjust death penalty case, and stories of cases that illustrate Stevenson’s focus (mentally ill offenders, women, juveniles with life sentences, prison conditions, capital punishment). All are recreated in heartrending but clear-eyed detail.

As both an exhaustive documentation and indictment of our justice system from the 1980s to the present, and an investigation of class, race, gender, and age in America, Just Mercy shines a light on bias in media, shoddy police investigations, punitive sentencing, and us, a blood-thirsty populace who “want[s] to kill all the broken people.” In his blurb, Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls Stevenson “America’s young Nelson Mandela” and declares that Just Mercy “should be read by people of conscience in every civilized country in the world.” As always, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate speaks truth to power.

- Faith Adiele
2015 finalist judge

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Watch Bryan Stevenson's TED talk

Bryan Stevenson's TED talk, March 2012

(Now viewed by over 2.5 million people!)




2015 Nonfiction Winner

Bryan Stevenson, photo credit Nina Subin
Click to see acceptance speech video

(Click photo to see acceptance speech at awards dinner.)

Bryan Stevenson
Just Mercy:
A Story of Justice and Redemption

"Peace is more than the absence of conflict. There must be hope, justice and greater understanding of one another for us to truly embrace the beauty that lies in genuine peace. Literature is a powerful tool for exploring this kind of peace that seeks more than mere calm and nothing has been a greater source of strength for me in the pursuit of peace and justice than the great books which have shaped my career and writing. To now be awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize is more than a great honor, it is a source of pride and encouragement that I always treasure. I am humbled and inspired."

— Bryan Stevenson                        


 

Bryan Stevenson is a 1985 graduate of Harvard, with both a Masters in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government and a J.D. from the School of Law. He joined the clinical faculty at New York University School of Law in 1998.

Stevenson has been representing capital defendants and death row prisoners in the deep south since 1985 when he was a staff attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia. Since 1989, he has been Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a private, nonprofit law organization he founded that focuses on social justice and human rights in the context of criminal justice reform in the United States. EJI litigates on behalf of condemned prisoners, juvenile offenders, people wrongly convicted or charged, poor people denied effective representation and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct.

Stevenson’s work has won him national acclaim. In 1995, he was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship Award Prize. He is also a 1989 recipient of the Reebok Human Rights Award, the 1991 ACLU National Medal of Liberty, and in 1996, he was named the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers. In 2000, Stevenson received the Olaf Palme Prize in Stockholm, Sweden for international human rights and in 2004, he received the Award for Courageous Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Lawyer for the People Award from the National Lawyers Guild. In 2006, NYU presented Mr. Stevenson with its Distinguished Teaching Award. He has also received honorary degrees from several universities, including Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Georgetown University School of Law. Stevenson has served as a visiting professor of law at the University of Michigan School of Law. He has also published several widely disseminated manuals on capital litigation and written extensively on criminal justice, capital punishment and civil rights issues.

 

 
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