Bryan Stevenson's essay, "The Man on Death Row Who Changed Me," appears in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine.
It was an old hymn they used to sing all the time in church where I grew up. I hadn’t heard it in years. Because his ankles were shackled and his hands were locked behind his back, he almost stumbled when the guard shoved him forward. But he kept on singing.
His voice was filled with desire. I had come into the prison with such anxiety and fear about his willingness to tolerate my inadequacy. I didn’t expect him to be compassionate or generous. I had no right to expect anything from a condemned man on death row. But that day, I could hear him as he went down the hall, until the echo of his earnest, soaring voice faded. When it had gone, the still silence of that space sounded different from when I entered. Even today, after 30 years of defending death-row prisoners, I still hear him.
Rob Warden writes the Washington Post book review, "‘Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption’ by Bryan Stevenson." Warden is the executive director emeritus of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.
U.S. criminal justice sometimes seems more criminal than just — replete with error, malfeasance, racism and cruel, if not unusual, punishment, coupled with stubborn resistance to reform and a failure to learn from even its most glaring mistakes. And nowhere, let us pray, are matters worse than in the hard Heart of Dixie, a.k.a. Alabama, the adopted stomping ground of Bryan Stevenson, champion of the damned.
Stevenson, the visionary founder and executive director of the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative, surely has done as much as any other living American to vindicate the innocent and temper justice with mercy for the guilty — efforts that have brought him, among myriad honors, a MacArthur genius grant and honorary degrees from Yale, Penn and Georgetown. Now 54, Stevenson has made his latest contribution to criminal justice in the form of an inspiring memoir titled “Just Mercy.”
Earlier coverage of Bryan Stevenson's book begins at the link.