Just Mercy

Just Mercy

A Story of Justice and Redemption

eBook - 2014
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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

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

    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.
    Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction • Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction
  • Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award
  • Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
  • Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize
  • An American Library Association Notable Book
    "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
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group


    From the critics

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    Nov 06, 2018

    JUST MERCY is one of the most powerful and thought-provoking books I have ever read. This heartbreaking and inspiring memoir by Bryan Stevenson deals with multiple issues that still affect our country today. These include: race, class, poverty, mental illness, education, and a broken justice system. I defy anyone to read JUST MERCY and not be moved.

    Oct 23, 2018

    This book uses a series of case studies to explore the practice of incarceration in the United States. It is written by a lawyer - Bryan Stevenson, who works with Death Row prisoners in Alabama. Reading this book was an eye-opening experience that left me in an almost constant state of outrage from cover to cover. I would have even questioned much of it if it weren't for the well documented notes in the back. I have since gone on to watch several talks and speeches he has made about his work and I have found him to be a smart, gentle, compassionate man who has really interesting things to say about justice and mercy in society. The book is not overly technical or filled with legal jargon. It is very readable and packed full of information.

    Aug 23, 2018

    Great book. This is a must read for learning more about the injusticies of the legal system. Bryan stevenson is a truely incredibly person.

    Jun 10, 2018

    Stevenson should run for public office. He is someone who really supports the underrepresented, poor people in our country. The prison system, esp the private prison systems in the southern US, systematically apprehend and prosecute people to the fullest of the law often disregarding evidence of innocence. Learning the devastation of juvenile and adult lives brought tears to my eyes. Stevenson has committed his life to bringing justice to those falsely accused or given sentences in excess for crimes committed. He pushes back on our system that incarcerates people of color out of proportion and for minor or trumped up offenses. He works tirelessly and seems like a saint. Could not put this book down.

    Apr 02, 2018

    This is an incredibly convincing critique and expose' of the American judicial system. This is not just a book for those interested in justice; it's a book that all citizens should read.

    Mar 15, 2018

    Anyone who has heard Bryan Stephenson speak about the horrible inequities in the
    criminal justice system can't help but be moved and angered. The reader feels drawn into
    every court case and involved with each conclusion. A must read for everyone.

    DBRL_ReginaF Mar 10, 2018

    Of all the book on our justice system that I have read, this is one of the very best. It definitely puts a human face on it case after heartbreaking case.

    Aug 18, 2017


    Jul 17, 2017

    A concentrated, unblinking story of the Deep South and its enduring struggle with surmounting slavery/racism, told through the legal system. The author defends the unjustly accused Walter McMillian, who gets railroaded into Death Row when he should never have been there in the first place. This is a deeply personal story and the author describes his own feelings of incompetence as he starts off his legal career, nearly overwhelmed by his caseload. He bravely persisted and has achieved a solid non-profit foundation to help those most in need.

    Jul 08, 2017

    Excellent book. It was very educational about the history of racial injustice in the South and the racial injustices in the criminal justice system. The stories given about real people will break your heart and you won't be able to put the book down once you start it. The author is an amazing person and I am thankful that he wrote this book.

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    Nov 06, 2018

    “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close,” - p. 14

    Nov 06, 2018

    “…the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” - p. 18

    Nov 06, 2018

    “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

    DBRL_ReginaF Mar 10, 2018

    “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

    Nov 03, 2016

    My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.

    Apr 16, 2016

    "...capital punishment means 'them without the capital get the punishment.'" -- p. 6 Steve Bright, director of Southern Prisoners Defense Committee


    Add a Summary
    Nov 03, 2016

    As a young law student, Bryan Stevenson was somewhat adrift at Harvard Law School, unsure of his direction or his future. He wanted to do something that would help people, but he was having trouble connecting his theoretical education with meaningful action. Then, an internship at the Southern Prisoner’s Defence Committee led to work helping inmates on death row in the Deep South. Most of these prisoners were indigent, and could not afford legal counsel to help review or appeal their cases. The experience made a profound impression, and led him to found the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama in 1994. Stevenson would go on to appeal countless death sentences, and challenge the practice of sentencing minors to life without parole. Just Mercy recounts his experiences representing people who have been written off by society.


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