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Book Summary: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (A True Story) + Quotes

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If you are interested in learning more about injustices in the American criminal justice system, this summary of Just Mercy gives you everything you need to know about reading this must-read book. And because this is a book pairings blog “where books meet lifestyle,” I have also provided some quotes from the book and recommended lifestyle companions for you to enjoy with the book.

Is Just Mercy a true story?

Yes, Just Mercy by Attorney Bryan Stevenson, founder of Equal Justice Initiative, is the true story of his work defending those most desperate and in need from injustices in the American criminal justice system. The main narrative focuses on Walter McMillan, a young man who was sentenced to die for a murder he didn’t commit.

Book Summary of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson


The #1 New York Times bestseller Just Mercy is one book in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement that should be required reading.  It is the true story of Bryan Stevenson, who 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.

The main narrative centers on one of his first cases involving Walter McMillan, a young man who was sentenced to die for a murder he didn’t commit. What's unique about this story is how blatantly clear it was the McMillan didn't commit the crime. Still, attempting to get him released presented significant challenges.  The book also presents several other stories that make you question our criminal justice system and capital punishment.

Just Mercy may change your life because it's a raw, real and eye-opening look at the law in practice.  What's absolutely shocking here is how much evidence there was to support Mr. McMillan's innocence and how often, and for how long, the justice system completely failed him.  As a lawyer myself, I deeply appreciate books that present some of the real challenges in practicing law and how surprising both processes and results can be. So many fictional books fall short in my eyes, that I often don't read fictional books with legal plot lines.  Again, this book should be required reading.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Quotes from Just Mercy

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.

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. Finally, I’ve come to believe that 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.

When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can't otherwise see; you hear things you can't otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.

We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others. The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I believe it's necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and-perhaps-we all need some measure of unmerited grace.

We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others. The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I believe it's necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and-perhaps-we all need some measure of unmerited grace.

The kind of hope that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power. That kind of hope makes one strong.

Book Pairings

If you are looking for more like Just Mercy:


That concludes this book summary of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson with quotes and some recommended lifestyle companions for you to enjoy with the book.

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