Book Review

Just Mercy- A story of Justice and Redemption- By Bryan Stevenson

I just finished reading the latest edition of Just Mercy. Even though the underlying thought which Stevenson wishes to disseminate in his book is the potential of hope and mercy in redeeming racial injustice, I am left with shock, indignation, resentment and disgust by the very reminder that such cruel miscarriage of justice still exists.

I couldn’t help wondering about the root cause of racism and read many articles written about the same. Every time I read a narrative, I feel broken and I cannot imagine the extend of damage that has been left in the lives of the ones who were characters in this real life stories.

Even though India has its own version of injustice based on the caste and religious divides, I couldn’t find any compelling memoirs about the same by any Indian authors.

I fail to understand how one human being can consider another, inferior, just because he or she looks, talks and thinks differently?

How can one presume guilt without evidence and condemn without trial, just because one believes that all people of that skin colour are violent and is a threat to the community?

Stevenson’s book revolves around the biased conviction of Walter McMillian which happened in 1987. Stevenson’s legal firm first took up the cause of Walter McMillian, sentenced to death for the murder of a white woman. The state’s case had many inconsistencies and manufactured stories from witnesses who were threatened and colluded to do so.

The state disregarded accounts from many eyewitnesses who insisted they were with Walter at a church fundraiser. The legal system was determined to find someone to convict for this murder and decided Walter would be the ideal candidate because of his affair with a white woman.

The stories of poor black children sentenced to adult prisons where they were subjected to sexual assault and serving life sentences not always due to first degree murder, was appalling.

These children were of 13-14 year old and were juveniles who slipped into the path of crime because of their lack of maturity and judgement and their destitution.

Stevenson says, ” We do not live in a free society. We are all burdened by a history of racial inequality that’s created a kind of smog in the air.”

The facts remains that since prosecutors and police have legal immunity, they can do considerable harm to innocent citizens when they are on the hunt for justice.

Even though he speaks about hope, I couldn’t help thinking that the Justice System hasn’t changed in the least. That is what the decision of Jefferson County grand jury to not indict the officers of Law in the death of Breonna Taylor, by claiming that her boyfriend fired the first shot, even though the ballistics report could not determine if Taylor’s boyfriend shot an officer, makes me feel.

This is what millions of people like me all over the world recognized with horror, when we watched the video of George Floyd struggling to breathe while handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a police officer.

Racial injustice is not a curse entirely of The United States of America. But it is of every country that has a fraction of its population who see the colour of skin, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and the position in the social ladder, when they look at a human being.

Racism is part of every nation in a myriad of colors and hues, and in forms which are not so easy to detect. Slavery and lynching never really ended; instead, they just evolved. Only the causes, assumptions and justifications for those actions have changed.

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