Just Mercy

Bryan Stevenson

"I gave Herbert one last long hug, but I was thinking about what he'd said. I thought of all the evidence that the court had never reviewed about his childhood. I was thinking about all of the trauma and difficulty that had followed him home from Vietnam. I couldn't help but ask myself, Where were these people when he really needed them? Where were all of these helpful people when Herbert was three and his mother died? Where were they when he was seven and trying to recover from physical abuse? Where were they when he was a young teen struggling with drugs and alcohol? Where were they when he returned from Vietnam traumatized and disabled?"

p. 89

"I saw Walter just about every other week for those first few months, and I learned some of his habits. "Interesting" was Walter's euphemism for odd people, and having worked for hundreds of people throughout the county over the years, he'd encountered no shortage of "interesting" people. The more unusual or bizarre the person was, the more "interesting" they would become in Walter's parlance. "Very interesting" and "real interesting" and finally "Now, he's reeeaaaalll interesting" were the markers for strange and stranger characters. Walter seemed reluctant to say anything bad about anyone. He'd just chuckle if he thought someone was odd."

p. 102

"I argued that there was no credible corroboration of Myers's testimony and that under Alabama law the State couldn't rely exclusively on the testimony of an accomplice. I argued that there was prosecutorial misconduct, racially discriminatory jury selection, and an improper change of venue. I even challenged Judge Robert E. Lee Key's override of the jury's life sentence, though I knew the reduction of an innocent man's death sentence to life imprisonment without parole would still have been an egregious miscarriage of justice. The court rejected all of my arguments."

p. 127

"(...) the race of the victim is the greatest predictor of who gets the death penalty in the United States. The study conducted for that case revealed that offenders in Georgia were eleven times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim was white than if the victim was black. These findings were replicated in every other state where studies about race and the death penalty took place."

p. 142

"As I began discussing the hearing, he grinned. We talked for an hour before I had to see another client. Avery never again asked me for a chocolate milkshake."

p. 202

"It made me feel less weird to smile like it was a joke. But then the boy hugged me tighter and whispered in my ear. He spoke flawlessly, without a stutter and without hesitation. "I love you, too." There was such tenderness and earnestness in his voice, and just like that, I thought I would start crying."

p. 287

"For the first time I realized that my life was just full of brokenness. I worked in a broken system of justice. My clients were broken by mental illness, poverty, and racism. They were torn apart by disease, drugs, and alcohol, pride, fear, and anger. I thought of Joe Sullivan and of Triana, Antonio, Ian, and dozens of other broken children we worked with, struggling to survive in prison. I thought of people broken by war, like Herbert Richardson; people broken by poverty, like Marsha Colbey; people broken by disability, like Avery Jenkins. In their broken state, they were judged and condemned by people whose commitment to fairness had been broken by cynicism, hopelessness, and prejudice."

p. 288

"(...) The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It's when mercy is least expected that it's most potent--strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration."

p. 294

"The fourth institution is mass incarceration. Going into any prison is deeply confusing if you know anything about the racial demographics of America. The extreme overrepresentation of people of color, the disproportionate sentencing o racial minorities, the targeted prosecution of drug crimes in poor communities, the criminalization of new immigrants and undocumented people, the collateral consequences of voter disenfranchisement, and the barriers to re-entry can only fully understood through the lens of our racial history."

p. 301

© Kyuwon Lee, 2020.