A Talk, a Book, then a Movie Becomes a Movement to Bend the Moral Arc of Justice

Updated: Feb 9

By Sonali Deliwala

“Just Mercy” tells the story of Bryan Stevenson, a criminal justice lawyer who moves to Alabama to represent wrongly convicted individuals on death row. The movie follows the case of Walter McMillian, who spent six years on death row for a crime he did not commit.

The theater hummed with the chatter of social justice advocates, NGO leaders, civil rights lawyers, public defenders, council members, and members of the criminal justice and reentry community. Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy, published in 2015, and his famous 2012 TED talk had identified him as one of the foremost criminal justice lawyers and human rights activists in the country. By the fall when I attended his talk at Acadia University, Mr. Stevenson’s message was garnering national attention, winning acclaimed awards, and receiving rave reviews I couldn’t stop smiling to myself as I made my way into the crowded theater.