October 21 – Just Mercy
On Saturday, October 21st, we discussed Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy for this month’s Books & Breakfast. In a gist, Just Mercy is a powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice. In his work, Stevenson shares an unforgettable true story from his time as a young lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the furthest reaches of our criminal justice system. Stevenson presents the case of Walter McMillan, a young man sentenced to die for a notorious murder he didn’t commit, which in turn drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship that changed his understanding of justice and mercy forever.
“Bryan Stevenson is America’s young Nelson Mandela—a brilliant lawyer fighting with courage and conviction to guarantee justice for all.” —DESMOND TUTU, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
The morning brought about 30 people of diverse age groups and races to discuss topics raised in the book. After being split into four groups, attendees tackled a list of questions provided by the facilitator, Dr. Terri Jett. When asked about what they learned from the criminal system after reading the book, one attendee said that they started to notice how current law can come down harder on those of lower economic class, which are often people of color. She said that she started to realize that the law is not always fair and needs some changes. This prompted the group to get into a discussion of how they can change the current law. The consensus reached was that people must call their representatives and meet with them in person in order to change the law. Another attendee talked about the parts of the book in which Stevenson said he was learning more about himself by looking at his cases, and she said she felt the same thing. The rest of her group agreed and echoed her sentiments. As the morning came to a close, attendees lingered a bit and connected with each other on how and when to come together to look at local law.
The Books & Breakfast program is made possible due to the help of Indiana Humanities, the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, Butler University Libraries, and the Butler University Department of Political Science.