The movie “Just Mercy” began in a forest where some black men were felling a tree. Afterwards, one of the men was driving home but he was arrested by the police and accused of a crime. He was charged and convicted for murder of a young white lady and sentenced to death.
We were also introduced to Bryan, a young black man who was an intern in a county’s law firm and came to the prison to inform a prisoner who was around his age range that he was not due for execution till next year. The prisoner was glad for the news and he chatted, laughed with the young intern lawyer.
Two years after, Bryan, the young man had graduated from Harvard and become a lawyer and he headed to Alabama the city where he interned to defend the poor who were unlawfully arrested and sentenced to death. His mother was unhappy because she knew her son might get killed in the process of trying to save others.
Bryan had teamed with a young white lady to set up a law firm for defending prisoners on death row. He got to Alabama to face rejection of not being allowed rental for an office space because he will be defending prisoners on death row.
On his first visit to the prison/correctional facility as a lawye he was subjected to being stripped naked before he could be allowed to speak with the prisoners. Needless to say, this was a mental tactic of humiliating him and robbing him of whatever good intentions he had.
Bryan met Walter McMillan, a prisoner who was convicted and was on death row for the murder of a young white lady. Walter initially rejected Bryan’s service as his lawyer. Bryan, the Harvard trained lawyer after some study on the case was sure Walter was innocent of the charge of murder against him and forged on ahead to do the needful of meeting with the county’s counselor and Walter’s family.
Family and friends informed Bryan that Walter was with them at the time the murder of Monroe happened. He also got to know that Walter before his arrest death had dealt with drugs and had an extra-marital affair with a white woman, So the white folks were on a revenge plot against him hence the murder was blamed on him.
Walter finally accepted Bryan as his lawyer and Bryan went on to seeking for a retrial for the murder charge against Walter. It was also revealed that one of Walter’s co-prison inmates was scheduled for death by electrocution as justice was wrongly meted to him, a mentally unstable person.
Meanwhile, Daniel, one of the friends to Walter’s son was a concrete witness that he was with Ralph Myers the man who claimed to be Walter’s accomplice in the killing of the young white lady. He revealed that he was with Ralph Myers during the time of Monroe’s death and they were not in the place where Monroe was found dead.
So, neither Ralph nor Walter was responsible for Monroe’s death as against what the state counsel presented in court to nailing the murder charge on Walter. Daniel agreed he would be a witness to the case but he later backed down when the police accused him of perjury and arrested him for witnessing against the state’s counsel.
Bryan made sure that the charges of perjury against Daniel was dropped because it was unlawful. Since Daniel was no longer a witness, it was imperative they have another witness and Bryan went for the sole witness that testified against Walter, Ralph Myers.
Bryan got another personal attack from the police when he was unlawfully stopped by the police and a gun was pointed at him, you could see tears welled up in his eyes while Eva, Bryan’s partner was threatened with her family’s safety because she was working with Bryan. Undeterred, Eva continued to work with Bryan and they eventually got an office, a secretary.
The racial injustice was palpating. Walter told Bryan that they could put him on death row before his re-trial. So, Bryan intensified his effort and got a clue that Myers was questioned by the State officers even after he was convicted in the prison.
He checked the state library for records of police that could be used as evidences. Boom! He found something. Bryan found an audio recording that heard Myers refusing to witness against innocent Walter. He insisted he was not going to bear false witness against Walter. Needless to say, these recording didn’t suffice at the court
Herbert was executed unlawfully; Herbert’s execution was painful to watch even as he requested for the song Rugged Cross to be played as he was led to the execution room. The lyrics of the song and the prisoners unified melody of support for Herbert till his death was touching. Even though Bryan worked all through the night, he sent appeal to Alabama Supreme Court but his appeal was denied. Bryan watched as Herbert was electrocuted, he was broken but he forged ahead to fight for Walter’s retrial.
He requested that Myers should testify in court to recant his previous testimony against Walter as false. Myers eventually accepted and he testified as Myers had requested. Sadly, justice was evaded and the retrial that Bryan sought for Walter was denied and even Walter’s first son was arrested for an emotional outburst in the court. It was a deeply emotional sight. Bryan and everyone were down but Bryan found courage in the presence of God in a church scene to go on.
He took the case to Alabama Supreme court outside the county. The case was televised and Alabama Supreme court granted a retrial to Walter Macmillan. At the retrial hearing, the blacks were barred from entering the court until the whites were fully seated and there no space to seat again, the blacks had to stand. At the trial, Bryan pulled up an emotional, rational case of racial discrimination and asked that the case against Walter be dismissed.
Surprisingly, the state lawyer agreed with Bryan and didn’t object the motion to dismiss the charges against Walter McMillan. The court dismissed charges against Walter, it was another emotional scene seeing Walter leave the prison and other inmates who have grown to be his friends. Walter returned home to his family and friends.
Walter’s case was further moved to the US senate, seeking a redress of the US death penalty act. I leave you with Bryan’s final words at the hearing “If each of us can follow the lead, we can change the world for the better. If we can look at ourselves closely and honestly, I believe we will see that we all need justice, we all need mercy and perhaps we all need some measure of unmerited grace.”
Did I mention that Just Mercy is a true-life story of a Harvard lawyer, Bryan Stevenson who has been fighting for the poor, incarcerated and condemned for 30 years and has saved over 140 persons from death row?
In the light of the recent racial killings around the world, we truly hope that the world truly come together as one without any sort of prejudice of color, race or tribe.
Have a great week ahead.
Je t’aime mon ami.