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Editorial Reviews

"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's Summary

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.

©2014 Bryan Stevenson (P)2014 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"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)

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Made me question justice, peers and myself.

I have a little over an hour commute each way 5 days a week. I've been listening to audio books during my commute just over two years. It’s made a big difference in my life. Now I feel guilty on the days I just listen to the radio.

Narrators play an important role.

I was so happy to learn that the author narrated this book. However, he’s a little bit flat. The first hour or so of the book was pretty dry and I didn’t know if I would even continue listening. I’m so glad I did. It’s been a long time since a book really made stop and think. I had to keep pausing the audio to take a few minutes to think about things.

When I would share pieces of the book with friends or co-workers and tell them how troubling/alarming I felt certain instances were their responses were pretty similar. They all said something along the lines of there had to be more to it and someone couldn’t possibly be sent to death row or prison at those ages/for those crimes. I would nod and say ‘you have to read it.’

Around this same time at a work lunch the topic of the death penalty came up. One of my co-workers strongly voiced her support of the death penalty and said things like what are we waiting for? Why does it take so long? Just kill them and save us some money. My stomach knotted. This is my co-worker, who I genuinely like and trust and value the opinion of. I just responded, “but, sometimes we get it wrong.’

This book made me question our justice system on every level, my country, my peers and myself. That’s a first. Even with all that required reading in my past.

There were many moments that really hit me in my core. But, one stand out moment, was when the author, as a young black law student was stopped by police in his own neighborhood for doing absolutely nothing, and was compelled to run. That is where the book grabbed me and sucked me in. Of course it would be his instinct to run and how terrifying what the outcome could have been if he’d followed his instinct. When he mentioned that his neighbors started coming out I initially felt relief and thought well thank goodness, they will give those cops the what for and set them straight! But… no. They didn’t do that.

Spending a good chunk of my early childhood in a pretty poor neighborhood I knew that cops and justice aren’t always exactly good or fair. And I saw a few alarming things even in a middle class predominantly white neighborhood in my teenage years. And, of course we’ve all been watching the news the last few years. So I didn’t go into this book with rose colored glasses. But, I had no idea what I was in for.

Bryan Stevenson is one of the good guys. One of those people that you call angels on earth. We should all thank God for him and his work and his commitment to the forgotten, neglected or misjudged.

33 of 35 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 12-27-14

Thought Provoking

Unfairness and racism in the Justice System is a major them of our age. DNA analysis exposes false convictions on regular bases. The predominance of racial minorities in jail and prisons denote a systemic bias. “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson is a memoir that personalizes the struggle against injustice in the story of one activist attorney. The information in this book covers many years but its message could not be more important considering what is happening around the country. For example the problems in Ferguson Missouri and other cities with the police killing black suspects.

Stevenson grew up poor in Delaware. His great-great parents had been slaves in Virginia. His grandfather was murdered in a Philadelphia housing project when Stevenson was a teenager. The author attended Eastern University and then Harvard Law School. He represented poor client when he worked for the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta Georgia. Later he moved to Montgomery Alabama and co founded the Equal Justice Initiative.

The book tells the story of some of his clients. Its narrative backbone is the story of Walter McMillan a death row case from the 1980s. McMillan lived in Monroeville Alabama the home of Harper Lee who wrote the book “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Stevenson also tells the about the case of Evan Miller age 14 who got a life sentence for murder. Stevenson took the case to the United States Supreme Court in 2012. The Court held that mandatory life sentences without parole for children violated the eighth amendment.

The book is a page turner. But it is also a book of hope. The author’s faith in both the power of redemption and the possibility of justice keeps him and other like him challenging the unjust system and laws.

I have this past year been reading about the Supreme Court. I noted a lot of 5 to 4 splits by the court. This book revealed that in the author’s civil case against a District Attorney who knowingly and with malice withheld evidence that proved the defendant not guilty. The Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 ruling stated that the DA could not be held accountable even if he purposefully committed a crime. Justice Ginsberg wrote an outstanding dissenting opinion in the case.

I could not put the book down; it is full of information on a justice system and social order that needs to be transformed. The author narrated the book.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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Compelling story of our broken justice system

If you could sum up Just Mercy in three words, what would they be?

heartbreaking, compelling, powerful

What other book might you compare Just Mercy to and why?

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michele Alexander, they are two very eye opening accounts of mass incarceration in the modern age.

What about Bryan Stevenson’s performance did you like?

Hearing the author read is always better in my view than having an actor read. The accent, cadence, and pronunciation are on point. Bryan Stevenson's reading of his accounts is correctly emotional, and very motivating.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Alabama, you got the weight on your shoulders that's breaking your back.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Gillian
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 06-27-16

God Bless the Stone-Catchers

The fact that I come from a Death Penalty state and haven't thought about it one way or another is appalling. But "Just Mercy" really made me think, and feel, my way through the tangles in my mind.
At first, I did some eye-rolling as I thought Bryan Stevenson was going to be "humble" yet self-aggrandizing at the same time. Not so by a long shot. The man is a hero, through and through--a stone-catcher of the most extraordinary kind ("Let he who is without sin, catch the first stone"). Nobody can remind us all that we are all flawed, that we are all greater than our worst deeds. And the man throws himself between those of us who would destroy others even as we avoid looking at ourselves.
The book tells us many stories, each of which really showed me that I've been looking at things the wrong way (i.e. I'm right, the world's wrong). It's pretty astounding because sure, there are flat-out innocent people condemned, but there are also people who are guilty but whose intent was different from what the courts insisted, guilty but who were too young to really know what they were doing, and guilty, period. But who are flawed and broken people, just like the rest of us.
Stevenson tells each story with compassion, with wisdom, with love, and he narrates his own work well, a solid 4-star performance (which is fantastic considering a LOT of authors shouldn't read their own work).
This is a great, great book that made me realize that I'm more than my fears of other people. And thank God, I'm more than my biggest mistake.

16 of 20 people found this review helpful

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One of the best books that I have ever listened to

This book has informed my views and awakened empathy that I didn't realize were shallow and dormant. I have worked in many corporate environments -appalled at the prevalence and perpetuation of discrimination, incompetence, politics and bureaucracy. The impact of these practices on human lives being dismissed and thrown away without any regard is appalling - I have cried no less than 6 times while reading this book. Thank you Mr Stevenson for your belief and unwavering advocacy for the children, adults, family and communities facing such incredulous challenges with the legal system. Thank you for the data to support, inform and expose the prevalence of unjust mercy in existence today. And, thank you for making just mercy a cause that I now understand and am committed to support in small personal moments with people around me and for the good of the community.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Denise
  • Decatur, GA USA
  • 01-31-18

A Must Read

Bryan Stevenson and those that work at EJI are true American heroes. This well written and fascinating narrative is an eye opener for anyone who knows little about racial injustice in this country, and the mass incarceration of poor black citizens that continues. Heart breaking and hopeful.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A most worthy reading!

About perseverance; about other cruel layers of poverty; about sacrifice; about forgiveness; about humanity at it's weakest and the potential of it's strength; about fear.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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One of the most important books you will ever encounter.

Bryan Stevenson is thorough, heartfelt, and genuine in his description of the ways in which our justice system is failing the most vulnerable in our population. Interweaving narratives with history and criminal justice education, Stevenson makes his work accessible and compassionate to the reader while still conveying the overwhelming nature of this issue. A long listen, but well worth it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Raglan, New Zealand
  • 05-09-15

Sweet Home Alabama

This is an astonishing, compelling, harrowing, gripping, shocking book.

It’s the true story of a young African American lawyer in modern times who defended the most marginalised, forgotten condemned people in the prison system of the Deep South.
It is an expose of the tragic stories of people either on death row or sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Some of these people are innocent; others have committed crimes but have received disproportionately severe punishments (where mitigating circumstances, such as severe mental illness, young age or extreme provocation, have not been properly considered).

The litany of mistreatment is profoundly disturbing: poor legal representation (due to dire poverty and denial of access to court-appointed lawyers); rigged all-white juries; endemic institutionalised racism and corruption; children, denied access to juvenile legal processes, getting life sentences in adult prisons - where they are then sexually abused and traumatised; cruel punishments such as solitary confinement in tiny overheated spaces, and so on.

As a black lawyer he also had to tolerate racial harassment and intimidation from a significant proportion of officials with confederate, segregationist attitudes. He was routinely strip-searched (when white lawyers would get no more than a pat-down) and had to overcome deliberately obstructive and abusive behaviour, as well as enduring death-threats.

It is truly heart-warming and deeply moving to hear how this lawyer (and his team) bravely devoted most of his waking hours to getting justice for victims of an unfair judicial system, but his limited resources inevitably restricted him to being able to take a relatively small number of cases. Logic implies that there must be thousands of desperate people in similar predicaments elsewhere in the Deep South and wider USA who will never be helped.

You can’t help but appreciate the heroic efforts of this man to free the lucky few from harsh and unfair sentences, but sadly, the big picture for many people is one of poverty, racism, and injustice.

Despite this bleak assessment, I wholeheartedly recommend this excellent book.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Diane
  • United States
  • 12-23-14

One of the most important books of our time

Societies are judged by how they treat their least fortunate members. But most of us aren't aware of the injustices perpetuated in our own country.

"Just Mercy" gives us a glimpse into the unjust, corrupt and inhumane world of the U.S. criminal justice system and one man's struggle to help its victims.

If you only read one book this year, this should be it.

Have a box of tissues handy.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-23-16

Moving stories about Justice and mercy.

Lots to reflect on our own society, the story challenges the reader to heal the hurt in their society and that it can be done.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rosaria
  • 08-16-16

Inspirational and tear jerking story

Performance and story are all perfect. Really do hope more people read to empower people to fight for what is right in society.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • naz
  • 04-11-16

Powerful and moving story

Highly recommend this beautifully written memoir.

Bryan's reading of it is masterful and the stories in it really stay with you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris
  • 03-08-16

Humble Honest and Merciful!

How humbling and sobering this book has been. never have I read a book as honest emotionally, psychological and as clear as this.

No review can give this book justice. I dealt with so many emotions. Strength in honest and sometimes "dishonest" people is what I have learn most. the power of mercy and honesty as never narrated before.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Shiki
  • 05-23-18

Opened my eyes

This book is so wonderful any summary shorter than the book itself, could never do it justice.

If you enjoy being pulled into a story, happy or sad, then give it a go. I would describe it as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ meets the Netflix series ‘Making a Murderer’

You don’t have to be American to understand the stories of injustice and mercy, in fact it is all the more compelling if you’re not.

I still have goosebumps when I think about scenes from this book.

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  • lucy
  • 02-09-18

Must Read

In my opinion an important book to read. I may not be an American, but I know that until there is justice everywhere there is really justice nowhere

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  • Olumayowa Sam Ogunlude
  • 11-28-17

This is one of the best books I have ever read.

This is a book that reminds us of humanity, forgiveness & Mercy. It is a must read

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-28-17

An important perspective told by a great man

I'd heard Brian on the Ezra Klein show and wanted to read Just Mercy. I thought I'd try it as an audio as he narrated the book. I believe that the books power was effectively transferred through Brian's reading. Brian is a truly great man, and I thoroughly enjoyed, whilst saddened, hearing his story

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  • M. T. Foy
  • 04-02-17

"We Are More Than the Worst Thing We Have Done"

What an unforgettable book! I felt pity, sadness, rage, I even smiled and laughed occasionally. I wanted to know the outcome of Bryan's efforts on behalf of his clients, cheering when he succeeded, mourning when he couldn't help. Most of all, I was uplifted by Bryan's story, I urge you to listen to it.

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  • Chris
  • 03-25-17

Humbling beyond words

An amazing book. The highs and lows described are beyond anything most of us will experience in our lifetime and I am filled with admiration for this author.

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  • Ninalmek
  • 06-16-18

<br />Essential and moving

A wonderful and moving account of social change and the tireless work put into changing our society for the better

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  • Vicky
  • 05-13-18

What an amazing human being you are

Very touching and powerful. Keep up the amazing work you go Bryan. You are a real gift to this world and the people you stand for.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-04-18

worth the effort

An amazing story which caused me to alternate between feelings of rage at the system with overwhelming sadness for the victims of the system. Sometimes I was too sad/angry to keep listening as it is extremely emotional. However Mr Stevenson is a role model who fills me with hope for a future which is both just and merciful. As hard as it was I hung in to the end and am glad I did. May God bless him and all those he has inspired to work for justice, fairness and equity.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-27-18

Eye opening and humbling.

This book was so moving and Although some of these story were hard to hear, its a must to hear. It makes you look at yourself and your views. wow Bryan Stevenson you are an amazing person with the biggest heart. Keep fighting the world need more of you.

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  • Louise
  • 10-22-15

Everyone should read this

A remarkable account on human injustice and how even small actions can make a difference.

If you are for or against capital punishment you should read this book to help you determine why you believe what you do.

Engaging story with a great narrative.

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  • Jo
  • 07-23-15

Just Mercy - just incredible

An amazing book and opens the eyes and the heart.
How sad that despite knowing how precious life is, it can be treated with such contempt.
Yet - there is hope.

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  • Ballina Beach
  • 07-05-15

Powerful story

Bryan Stevenson is a remarkable person: inspirational, humble, devoted to the cause of helping those who most need help. His reading was masterful & heartfelt. Very moving.

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  • Jane
  • 03-07-15

Will listen to it again

Great book - I learnt a great deal and have already used many of the stories in this book to share with friends