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Just Mercy
Cover of Just Mercy
Just Mercy
A Story of Justice and Redemption
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#1 New York Times Bestseller | Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Boston GlobeThe Seattle TimesEsquireTime Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction...
#1 New York Times Bestseller | Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Boston GlobeThe Seattle TimesEsquireTime Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction...
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  • #1 New York Times Bestseller | Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times
  • The Washington Post
  • The Boston Globe
  • The Seattle Times
  • Esquire
  • Time

    Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction | Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction | Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award | Finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize | Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize | An American Library Association Notable Book

    A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time


    Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn't commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

    Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer's coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

    Praise for Just Mercy

    "Every bit as moving as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so . . . a searing indictment of American criminal justice and a stirring testament to the salvation that fighting for the vulnerable sometimes yields."—David Cole, The New York Review of Books

    "Searing, moving . . . Bryan Stevenson may, indeed, be America's Mandela."—Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

    "You don't have to read too long to start cheering for this man. . . . The message of this book . . . is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. Just Mercy will make you upset and it will make you hopeful."—Ted Conover, The New York Times Book Review

    "Inspiring . . . a work of style, substance and clarity . . . Stevenson is not only a great lawyer, he's also a gifted writer and storyteller."The Washington Post

    "As deeply moving, poignant and powerful a book as has been, and maybe ever can be, written about the death penalty."—The Financial Times

    "Brilliant."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

    "Not since Atticus Finch has a fearless and committed lawyer made such a difference in the American South. Though larger than life, Atticus exists only in fiction. Bryan Stevenson, however, is very much alive and doing God's work fighting for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope. Just Mercy is his inspiring and powerful story."—John Grisham

    "Bryan Stevenson is one of my personal heroes, perhaps the most inspiring and influential crusader for justice alive today, and Just Mercy is extraordinary. The stories told within these pages hold the potential to transform what we think we mean when we talk about justice."—Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • Chapter 1

    Chapter One

    Mockingbird Players

    T

    he temporary receptionist was an elegant African American woman wearing a dark, expensive business suit—a well-dressed exception to the usual crowd at the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee (SPDC) in Atlanta, where I had returned after graduation to work full time. On her first day, I'd rambled over to her in my regular uniform of jeans and sneakers and offered to answer any questions she might have to help her get acclimated. She looked at me coolly and waved me away after reminding me that she was, in fact, an experienced legal secretary. The next morning, when I arrived at work in another jeans and sneakers ensemble, she seemed startled, as if some strange vagrant had made a wrong turn into the office. She took a beat to compose herself, then summoned me over to confide that she was leaving in a week to work at a "real law office." I wished her luck. An hour later, she called my office to tell me that "Robert E. Lee" was on the phone. I smiled, pleased that I'd misjudged her; she clearly had a sense of humor.

    "That's really funny."

    "I'm not joking. That's what he said," she said, sounding bored, not playful. "Line two."

    I picked up the line.

    "Hello, this is Bryan Stevenson. May I help you?"

    "Bryan, this is Robert E. Lee Key. Why in the hell would you want to represent someone like Walter McMillian? Do you know he's reputed to be one of the biggest drug dealers in all of South Alabama? I got your notice entering an appearance, but you don't want anything to do with this case."

    "Sir?"

    "This is Judge Key, and you don't want to have anything to do with this McMillian case. No one really understands how depraved this situation truly is, including me, but I know it's ugly. These men might even be Dixie Mafia."

    The lecturing tone and bewildering phrases from a judge I'd never met left me completely confused. "Dixie Mafia"? I'd met Walter McMillian two weeks earlier, after spending a day on death row to begin work on five capital cases. I hadn't reviewed the trial transcript yet, but I did remember that the judge's last name was Key. No one had told me the Robert E. Lee part. I struggled for an image of "Dixie Mafia" that would fit Walter McMillian.

    " 'Dixie Mafia'?"

    "Yes, and there's no telling what else. Now, son, I'm just not going to appoint some out-of-state lawyer who's not a member of the Alabama bar to take on one of these death penalty cases, so you just go ahead and withdraw."

    "I'm a member of the Alabama bar."

    I lived in Atlanta, Georgia, but I had been admitted to the Alabama bar a year earlier after working on some cases in Alabama concerning jail and prison conditions.

    "Well, I'm now sitting in Mobile. I'm not up in Monroe­ville anymore. If we have a hearing on your motion, you're going to have to come all the way from Atlanta to Mobile. I'm not going to accommodate you no kind of way."

    "I understand, sir. I can come to Mobile, if necessary."

    "Well, I'm also not going to appoint you because I don't think he's indigent. He's reported to have money buried all over Monroe County."

    "Judge, I'm not seeking appointment. I've told Mr. McMillian that we would—" The dial tone interrupted my first affirmative statement of the phone call. I spent several minutes thinking we'd been accidentally disconnected before finally realizing that a judge had just hung up on me.

    I was in my late twenties and about to start my fourth...

About the Author-

  • Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant.

Reviews-

  • AudioFile Magazine The author, an attorney, recounts his shocking experiences while representing those least able to afford legal representation and, therefore, justice. Stevenson narrates his own book, and he does a fine job. His voice is pleasant, deep, and rich, and his clean diction enables us to experience every word exactly as he wrote it. However, he does fall into some of the habits that untrained voices practice. He can be monotonous while reading long, involved sentences, and he doesn't modulate his breathing, which results in dropped endings and scratchy phrases. Nonetheless, Stevenson has important things to say in this book, and they deserve to be heard. His passion comes through, and he clearly cares deeply about reforming our justice system. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine
  • David Cole, The New York Review of Books "Just Mercy is every bit as moving as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so. . . . [It] demonstrates, as powerfully as any book on criminal justice that I've ever read, the extent to which brutality, unfairness, and racial bias continue to infect criminal law in the United States. But at the same time that [Bryan] Stevenson tells an utterly damning story of deep-seated and widespread injustice, he also recounts instances of human compassion, understanding, mercy, and justice that offer hope. . . . Just Mercy is a remarkable amalgam, at once a searing indictment of American criminal justice and a stirring testament to the salvation that fighting for the vulnerable sometimes yields."
  • Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times "A searing, moving and infuriating memoir . . . Bryan Stevenson may, indeed, be America's Mandela. For decades he has fought judges, prosecutors and police on behalf of those who are impoverished, black or both. . . . Injustice is easy not to notice when it affects people different from ourselves; that helps explain the obliviousness of our own generation to inequity today. We need to wake up. And that is why we need a Mandela in this country."
  • The Washington Post "Inspiring . . . a work of style, substance and clarity . . . Stevenson is not only a great lawyer, he's also a gifted writer and storyteller."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review, Kirkus Prize Finalist)
    "Unfairness in the justice system is a major theme of our age. . . . This book brings new life to the story by placing it in two affecting contexts: [Bryan] Stevenson's life work and the deep strain of racial injustice in American life. . . . You don't have to read too long to start cheering for this man. Against tremendous odds, Stevenson has worked to free scores of people from wrongful or excessive punishment, arguing five times before the Supreme Court. . . . The book extols not his nobility but that of the cause, and reads like a call to action for all that remains to be done. . . . The message of the book, hammered home by dramatic examples of one man's refusal to sit quietly and countenance horror, is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. Just Mercy will make you upset and it will make you hopeful. . . . Stevenson has been angry about [the criminal justice system] for years, and we are all the better for it."--Ted Conover, The New York Times Book Review

    "A distinguished NYU law professor and MacArthur grant recipient offers the compelling story of the legal practice he founded to protect the rights of people on the margins of American society. . . . Emotionally profound, necessary reading."
  • Booklist (starred review) "A passionate account of the ways our nation thwarts justice and inhumanely punishes the poor and disadvantaged."
  • Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate "Not since Atticus Finch has a fearless and committed lawyer made such a difference in the American South. Though larger than life, Atticus exists only in fiction. Bryan Stevenson, however, is very much alive and doing God's work fighting for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope. Just Mercy is his inspiring and powerful story."--John Grisham

    "From the frontlines of social justice comes one of the most urgent voices of our era. Bryan Stevenson is a real-life, modern-day Atticus Finch who, through his work in redeeming innocent people condemned to death, has sought to redeem the country itself. This is a book of great power and courage. It is inspiring and suspenseful--a revelation."--Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns

    "Bryan Stevenson is one of my personal heroes, perhaps the most inspiring and influential crusader for justice alive today, and Just Mercy is extraordinary. The stories told within these pages hold the potential to transform what we think we mean when we talk about justice."--Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow

    "Words such as important and compelling may have lost their force through overuse,

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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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