Bryan Stevenson

#911Remembered

September 11, 2020

‘Dear darkening ground, you’ve endured so patiently the walls we’ve built, perhaps you’ll give the cities one more hour.’

~Rilke

Coronado, California

We don’t get over loss or tragedy.

“We learn to hold them both at the same time. in an open mind and heart, at the same time. In an open mind and heart, there is room for both.”

~Sharon Saltzberg

Dalai Lama about 9/11: ‘It happened.’ 📿

‘Don’t try to see or force yourself to see the traumas of your past as gifts. They are givens.’

-Roshi Joan Halifax

‘An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive, abusive, unjust, unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy.’

~Bryan Stevenson

Unmerited Grace.

 

“Inspire to change.” See this.

January 11, 2020

“I believe that hopelessness is the enemy of justice.”

-Bryan Stevenson

WBUR/TONYA MOSLEY

Michael B. Jordan (left) as Bryan Stevenson and Jame Foxx as Walter McMillian in “Just Mercy.”

(Photo by Jake Giles Netter/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Bryan Stevenson: “Many people, most people in this country don’t want there to be inequality and injustice. They don’t want people to be treated unfairly or cruelly. I just think if you get closer to it, you’ll be motivated to say more, to do more. I do hope people that see this film will walk away with a greater consciousness about why we need to do better in this country when it comes to creating a justice system that is fair and reliable.”

Bryan Stevenson (Photo by Rog and Bee Walker for EJI)

On addressing racist legacies, which have contributed to nearly 42% of death row inmates being black

“I think we do have to begin talking more honestly about our history of racial injustice. I don’t think our country has ever engaged in any meaningful process of acknowledging the injustice, the inequality. I think we’re a post-genocide society. What we did to Native people was a genocide, and we haven’t acknowledged that. And we’ve allowed systems to continue that have been compromised by these narratives of racial difference. I think the great evil of slavery was involuntary servitude. It was this idea that black people aren’t as good as white people. And that continues after the 13th Amendment. That’s why I’ve argued slavery doesn’t end, it just evolves, and we had 100 years of terrorism and lynching and violence where black people were pulled out of their homes and beaten and murdered and drowned and tortured and lynched. And we’ve never really talked about that. And even though we pay more attention to the civil rights era, we haven’t confronted the fact that this presumption of dangerousness and guilt that gets assigned to black and brown people is still with us. It’s why these police encounters with young black people that end up with lethal violence are so disruptive and so painful.”

“The great gift I have is that I am the great grandson of people who were enslaved and they believed in freedom when it wasn’t rational to. And I’m the grandchild of people who were terrorized by lynching and they believed in a better future, even though that didn’t seem logical. I’m the child of people humiliated by segregation and Jim Crow, and yet they believed I could be anything I want. And it’s that orientation of hopefulness that has sustained me. We say in the film and I say when I give talks, ‘I believe that hopelessness is the enemy of justice.’ If you want to do justice work, you have to be prepared to believe things you haven’t seen. And it’s what continues to define the work I try to do today.”

‘Do people deserve to die for the crimes they’ve committed?’ I think the threshold question is, ‘Do we deserve to kill?’”

This 60 Minutes piece is referenced and recreated in the film, “Just Mercy.” Then correspondent Ed Bradley interviewed Bryan Stevenson and others about Johnny D…Walter McMillian…aired on November 22, 1992.

 The True Story Behind “Just Mercy”.

On September 19, 1988, Judge Robert E. Lee Key, Jr., the first presiding judge (Yes, his real name) overruled the jury’s recommendation of a life sentence and imposed the death penalty.

Bryan Stevenson and Walter McMillian remained friends until Walter’s death in 2013. He died after he developed dementia believed to have been brought on by the trauma of imprisonment. [From Stevenson, Bryan (2014). Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. New York: Spiegel & Grau. p. 368.].

Boise Weekly

January 9, 2020

‘Just’ About Perfect

“If we look at ourselves closely and honestly, I believe we will see that we all need justice,” says Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) near the film’s conclusion. “We all need justice, we all need mercy, and we all need some measure of unmerited grace.”

Bear witness to Just Mercy and you’ll soon recognize a story so much more than justice denied to a black man on death row: It’s revelatory of a cancer of America itself. African Americans. Hispanic Americans. Asian Americans. Native Americans. What they, and we, share is a common suffix of identity: Americans. Even the film’s title, “Just Mercy,” affirms the moral of its story. Yes, our eyes readily dart to the emotional resonance of the word “mercy” in the title, but consider for a moment the title’s other word, “just,” from the Latin iustus. And if I recall my college etymology, “iustus” is to say “righteous, equitable, lawful” or even “perfect.” Indeed, you may not find a more “perfect” experience at the cinema this season; and given that it features two bonafide Oscar winners (Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson) and showcases the best performance, to date, from Michael B. Jordan, the most exciting young actor on the planet, you may find that, like me, it’s worth seeing Just Mercy twice—once for self-validation, and again with someone you care deeply for.

Just Mercy is based on the true story of attorney Bryan Stevenson and a history-making battle for justice. After graduating from Harvard, Stevenson had his pick of lucrative jobs. Instead, he headed for Alabama to defend the wrongly condemned or improperly represented.

“You don’t know what you’re into down here in Alabama, where you’re guilty from the moment you’re born,” Stevenson is told from client Walter McMillan (Foxx), who was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence.

The morning after Just Mercy’s premiere at TIFF, Jordan, who is also one of the film’s producers, told me, “I’m so proud of what we’ve done here. You get to know Walter and see the humanity of an innocent man wrongly convicted, but you also see Bryan’s courage and passion, and understand why he dedicated his life to this cause through the Equal Justice Initiative.”

Ultimately, Just Mercy reminds us that there is no “justice for all” as we once pledged to the flag as children. For certain there is justice for some, but there is also extreme injustice for many others. Indeed, our lives are not unlike trials, reminders of ugliness of what humans are capable of doing to each other. But occasionally, mercy emerges. And when that mercy is “just”, it is a near-perfection of the human condition.

eji.org

https://www.idahopress.com/boiseweekly/screen/film/just-about-perfect/article_867de529-b01d-5086-bd6d-42a09787a4e9.html

July 11, 2016

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Comments from Just Mercy author and Equal Justice Initiative Founder Bryan Stevenson:

“We have a history of racial inequality that we really haven’t adequately acknowledged.”

~

“And then we codified our racial hierarchy through segregation. We passed the Civil Rights Act but we never dealt with this presumption.”

~

“Our failure to take seriously this problem is rooted in an unwillingness to acknowledge the damage done by slavery, lynching & segregation.”

http://www.eji.org/presumption-of-dangerousness-behind-police-abuse-of-black-people-cbs-this-morning

Dialogue for Criminal Justice Reform

July 27, 2015

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Equal Justice Initiative

“Seeking justice for all treatment…”

http://www.eji.org

slate.com

John Oliver, ‘Last Week Tonight’:

‘Mandatory minimum sentences can send Americans to prison for decades for even low-level drug offenses—regardless of context—as John Oliver explained on Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight. Even the judges who are forced to issue these sentences often think they’re egregiously unfair. 

So why do we have them? Most mandatory minimum sentencing laws were written during the height of the crack epidemic in the 1980s and ’90s, when politicians from both sides of the aisle raced to outdo each other when it came to being “tough on drugs.” Though the policies were immensely popular, almost everyone agrees they were a mistake, and what’s worse, they’ve contributed to the United States’ insane incarceration rate.’

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/07/27/john_oliver_on_mandatory_minimum_sentences_last_week_tonight_explains_why.html

Mother Jones

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http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/sandra-bland-bail-bond-system

“The large companies behind many local bondsmen are part of the American Bail Coalition, a powerful national association that has spent three decades pushing legislation that makes it harder for defendants like Bland to get out of jail without paying large sums of money. Before ABC began lobbying, in 1990, commercial bail accounted for just 23 percent of pretrial releases; today it’s 49 percent. Average bail amounts for felony cases have almost tripled in the past 25 years. Meanwhile, between 2004 and 2012, ABC companies whose income comes almost entirely from bail saw their revenues increase 21 percent.”

NPR

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“About 1,000 people die in American jails (not prisons) every year, and about a third of those are suicides.”

http://www.npr.org/2015/07/27/426742309/the-shock-of-confinement-the-grim-reality-of-suicide-in-jail

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