‘Just Mercy’ author to speak at lecture series

By Rachel Leland
Staff Writer

Author and criminal justice reform advocate Bryan Stevenson will speak at the Academy Lecture Series at 6 p.m. today in Waco Hall.

The series is hosted by The Academy for Leader Development and aims to attract speakers who can attest to the needs a leader must meet in today’s society.

Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard Law School graduate, founded the Equal Justice Initiative. The initiative provides legal representation for defendants who have not been justly treated because of, but not limited to, their race or socioeconomic status.

“The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. We have 7 million people on probation and parole,” Stevenson said at a TED Talk he gave in 2012. “And mass incarceration, in my judgment, has fundamentally changed our world. In poor communities, in communities of color there is this despair, there is this hopelessness, that is being shaped by these outcomes.”

Stevenson wrote “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” a book about his experiences legally representing the underrepresented. “Just Mercy” is currently No. 1 under Amazon’s Lawyer and Judge Biographies category and is a New York Times Best Seller.

Stevenson represented the now famous, Walter McMillian, an African-American male who was convicted for murdering a Caucasian woman in 1988. According to the Equal Justice Initiative’s website, McMillian was convicted despite having multiple alibi witnesses testify that McMillian was attending a church event when the murder happened.

Stevenson represented McMillian post conviction and proved that the state’s witnesses lied and that the prosecution suppressed exculpatory evidence.  According to the Equal Justice Initiative’s website, McMillan’s conviction was overturned and he was released in 1993 after serving six years for a murder he did not commit.

Bryan Stevens is a professor of clinical law at New York University School of Law, where he has worked since 1998.

Stevenson will also speak on Wednesday at chapel in Waco Hall.