“better 100 guilty men go free than one innocent man is convicted’. (Franklin)Through writing Just Mercy : Hidden Voices and Criminal Justice, Bryan Stevenson grants a spotlight on the criminal justice machine that incarcerates 25% of the world population today. Being first hand in defending the result of life sentence cases, Stevenson tells stories that are both heart wrenching and shameful of our justice system.
Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative pursue the lack of adequate legal representation of poor people, the harsh treatment of the mentally ill and mentally retarded, sentencing of juveniles as adult offenders, and the punishment of poor mothers who suffer miscarriages. We require our courts to make decisions about whether to release or jail someone awaiting trial based on a prediction of the possible harm that could occur should they be let free. We do this to ideally make our cities safer, to keep peace in communities and protect citizens. This same decision is also what we demand from those who enforce the law however Just Mercy sets a dark mirrored alternative to what our criminal procedures strive for. The resonating question directed at capital punishment that is presented by Stevenson is that in this country, Do we deserve to kill?” this question is completely different from the usual dialogue of “whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit” For ages, American politicians have pushed their images of themselves being principled by how harsh they are on crime, in order to attract the eye of the public, their position has to be firmer than that of their opponent. This is one of that trends that has molded our justice system to be paranoid state it is in today and for the general public to see violent criminals where citizens stand. Upon considerable analysis, it becomes evident that we do not deserve to kill.
because of how the criminal justice system that our nation has established quietly and unforgivingly punishes the poor. The personal narratives in Just Mercy display the recurring event of the world turning its back on disadvantage minorities. American criminal system and its connection to race begs the question, why do police officers who conduct these outrageous programs of framing innocent defendants centralize focus on African Americans? In part a history of segregation has led our prisons to be disproportionately black, but the far simpler answer is that it is because that is what they do in all aspects of law enforcement. Since 1989, “group exonerations” have revealed the innocence of more than 1,800 defendants which were convicted through large scale police scandals. In these scandals officers systematically framed innocent people.
“In 1999,authorities learned that for several years or longer, a group of officers in the Rampart division of the Los Angeles Police Department had routinely lied in arrest reports and testimony, and framed many innocent defendants by planting drugs or guns on them”(Gross) Guilty or innocent, they always focus disproportionately on African Americans. Of the many costs that the criminal justice system inflicts on the black community, the practice of deliberately charging innocent defendants with fabricated crimes may be the most shameful. The justification that props up this false assumption is that imprisoning someone abolishes them and the crime they are assumed to have committed from public memory.CRIMINAL PROCEDURE Our government and courts attempts to wield its authority with impartiality and justice as its sole motivator. The criminal procedures that exist in North America are thought to be rooted in integrity but through the timeline of Just Mercy, one after another, Stevenson presents successive court cases in which the court-appointed lawyers of marginalized defendants fail to present evidence, explore leads, or make appeals that could prove the innocence of their clients. From an involved perspective, Bryan Stevenson confronts is equal parts discrimination, negligence, and downright evil intentions brought on my openly racist officials. From Just Mercy, Sheriff Tom Tate, who is a outstanding example of an openly racist official, with the help of District Attorney Ted Pearson and investigators, coerced Walter’s conviction. Together, they persuade witnesses into false testimony, and like others, suppressed evidence.
Walter was convicted of murder by Judge Robert E. Lee Key and sentenced to death. Today, although less blatant than the past, police are hasty to make assumptions of correlated crime in investigations without proper evidence, this is influenced from their environment and our nation’s history.
Alongside deliberate racism propelling inflated incarceration numbers is a more capitalistic incentive, the free economy has found a niche in the ability to profit off of prisoners. Private prisons have created a motive in sending people to prison, even if they’re wrongfully incarcerated or incarcerated for slight offences that should be decriminalized. “In 15 states where the prison population has increased since 2010, total prisons costs increased $508 million.”(Vera) Large financial incentives create demand for security guards, janitorial staff, as well as vendors who supply prisons with necessities.
Towns across the United States have had multiple generations serving as prison security, this is unsurprising when identifying that high school dropout rates are exceptional in these same areas from students dropping out of school to become prison guards. Having a job in security pays well and has little to no expertise required. For example in Burlington, Colorado the local economy collapsed in the event of their prison closing, people were asking “”what am I going to do after September third if all the jobs are gone, There wasn’t that many jobs available, and so all they’re thinking about is I’ve got to get a job, I’ve got to put, you know, food on the table.” But trying to keep offences from repeating over again, a Judge’s decision separates individual freedom from a potentially dangerous outcome. It is up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, not police in this effort, the end justifies the means and in such The relevance of Just Mercy is everywhere, even in the last several days. On July 9th, an African-American woman named Sandra Bland was pulled over in Waller County, Texas, just south of Houston, for failing to signal before a lane change.
Video of the traffic stop shows officers forcing her to the ground in a scene that recalls the abusive treatment in 2014 of Arizona State University professor Ersula Ore. On July 13th, Bland was found dead in her Waller County jail cell. County police insist she committed suicide, but Bland was by all accounts a strong, proud, and accomplished woman, moving to Texas for a new job at Prarie View A&M, her alma mater. She had every reason to live. On the same day Bland was pronounced dead, President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders, and on the 16th he became the first president to visit a federal prison, “They opened the door to Cell 123, and President Obama stared inside. In the space of 9 feet by 10 feet, he saw three bunks, a toilet with no seat, a night table with books, a small sink, prison clothes on a hook, some metal cabinets and the life he might have had.
” (Baker) Obama being the first President to take into account prisoners perspectives made a compelling statement about those before him. The necessity to overhaul the downfalls in our system.In the legal world, a confession is almost always a pipeline to a guilty verdict, but when looking at the many cases taken on my Stevenson, it’s clear that in an interrogation many factors can convince someone of incriminating themselves. Innocent people can look guilty after 3 or 4 hours of meticulous cross-examination and accusations poring over them. They can present as angry and volatile, unpleasant sometimes. Often the people we are dealing with are vulnerable, damaged people. The systems victims who were set up to fail with years of abuse and mistreatment behind them. The mentally handicapped are especially susceptible to these risks since prisons are so poorly equipped to handle them.
In the words of stevenson “We get angry when people fail to recognize the need for thoughtful and compassionate assistance when it comes to the physically disabled, but because mental disabilities aren’t visible in the same way, we tend to be dismissive of the needs of the disabled and quick to judge their deficits and failures”. Because of the bent and misguided criminal justice system we have in place, mental instability comes hand in hand with many increased risks such as arrest, torture, early death, and imprisonment. In the case of of Avery Jenkins, Stevenson “argued to the judge that not taking Avery’s mental health issues into consideration at trial was as cruel as saying to someone who has lost his legs, “You must climb these stairs with no assistance, and if you don’t, you’re just lazy.” Or to say to someone who is blind, “You should get across this busy interstate highway unaided, or you’re just cowardly.” (Stevenson 199) The Foster system failed Avery in the same way that MEDIA The media can be used either to educate the public about the court system, thereby propelling justice, or to perpetuate injustice through sensationalism. In a exploration on the continued condemnation of the Central Park five, we still hear the echoes of the sensational journalism that boomed around “William Lopez, who spent 23 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.” (Segura) Media can advance the cause of justice by making the public aware of political corruption, unfair or inhumane treatment, and miscarriages of justice.
Stevensons release of McMillans 60 minute piece did exactly this, “After 60 Minutes and other influential national media outlets aired Walter’s story, state officials were forced to finally pay attention to EJI’s petitions on behalf of Walter because the state feared the effects of negative national publicity.”(Stevenson) If you don’t give them a show, they don’t care about you and the story just dies. And this, in one sentence, describes why our national media environment is so toxic and how it’s possible for so many people to be so misinformed. Our news media is a “show”, this can be seen in the twelfth chapter of Just Mercy where the “bad mother” media craze ignores the facts of how women who could not afford proper medical care were devastated by biased coverage that broadcasted false information. It’s show business, competing with every other type of media and entertainment for dollars.
The driving force behind for-profit media empires is just that … profit. It’s not “truth telling” or “informing the populace”.
The media writes these stories and airs these interviews because people read them and watch them. Sure, the press is one part of the equation. For the other part of that equation, look in the mirror. And what are ratings a reflection of? What people like. We as society like these kinds of stories, and the media plays in to what we want like any other business does. If we want this to change, we have to stop blaming the media for catering to our interests and instead reevaluate what we value as a society. CRITICISM of STEVENSON The subtitle of Stevenson’s book is “A Story of Justice and Redemption,” and it does contain hopeful notes.
EJI argued before the Supreme Court, affecting long-term change with new precedent and changes to case law. Stevenson does at times, it must be said, tend toward unapologetic sentimentality, as in his description in the book’s introduction of a death row inmate’s singing the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” as a form of resistance to the prison guards. On reading this passage at the beginning of the book, there is a fear that Stevenson would subvert the seriousness of his message with too much pathos, but I later came to see these moments as a worthwhile challenge to the reader. I was in part resistant because they seemed to romanticize men who had in some instances done genuinely horrible things. Stevenson, however, wants to radically change the way we see prisoners, especially those on death row, by humanizing them in ways we are not accustomed to. This is also done with his recalling of CONCLUSIONOur history with criminal prosecutions shows the fear and reluctance of challenging the fairness of our system into the 21st century.
Progressive movements have in every way pushed against this, however, many are reluctant to embrace new ideas quickly. Walter made me understand why we have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent . .
. . Walter’s case taught me that fear and anger are a threat to justice; they can infect a community, a state, or a nation and make us blind, irrational, and dangerousSOCIAL JUSTICEMany protesters in america such as the Black Lives Matter movement have motives in line with StevensonsThese Protests are met with systematic oppression, Department of Homeland Security labeling BLM as Domestic Terrorists.Prisons for profit (unresearched) give money to judges in order to give longer sentances to keep population of prison high.wealth, opportunities, and privilegesJoe Sullivan – multiple sclerosisPOVERTY