The film Just Mercy starring Michael B. Jordan as lawyer Bryan Stevenson will premiere in theaters in Los Angeles and New York on Christmas Day before its nation-wide release, and the movie, which is based on true story pulled straight from Stevenson’s best-selling memoir, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.
Jordan brought on Stevenson as a producer on the film, which tells the story of how after the Harvard law graduated moved to Alabama in order to help inmates who were wrongly condemned as death row prisoners. The main court case in the film focuses on one of Stevenson’s first clients, Walter McMillian, aka “Johnny D.” who’s played by Jamie Foxx in the movie, a 41-year-old tree-trimmer who was charged for the 1986 murder of Ronda Morrison, a local white teenager.
Stevenson’s story is lesson in justice, persistence, and pushing to do what’s lawfully right. McMillian was released from prison after seven years on death row, he passed away from early on-set Alzheimer’s in 2013.
However, Stevenson is still very much alive, and still working as attorney for the Equal Justice Initiative, which he founded in 1989.
As described on their official website, “EJI is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.”
Stevenson, who recently celebrated his 60th birthday, has helped release 135 wrongly accused prisoners sentenced to death. Of the film version of Just Mercy, which was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, he has given his full blessing.
“We don’t see those kinds of stories very often and I think that’s created a void in our consciousness about what’s happening,” Stevenson told Delaware Online. “We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world and most people in this country have no knowledge of that. That lack of knowledge and that lack of compassion is what’s made us so vulnerable to the abuse that is on display in this story.”
Stevenson Never Married & Never Had Children
Stevenson’s work earned the title of “America’s Mandela” from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and in the film Just Mercy, there’s a line which jokes about his relationship status: “He’s married to his work,” which has turned out to be the truth.
While WJI has grown to have an office of 40 employees and 20 lawyers on staff, Stevenson continues fighting for justice. He has argued and won multiple cases at the United States Supreme Court, including a 2019 ruling protecting condemned prisoners who suffer from dementia. Back in 2012, he won a landmark 2012 case that banned mandatory life-imprisonment-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger.
Stevenson Is A Professor At New York University’s School of Law
Over his career, Stevenson has earned 40 doctoral degrees, including those from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, and University of Pennsylvania. He’s also won a long list of awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize, the ABA medal, which is the American Bar Association’s highest honor, and the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union.
As a professor, he’s racked up even more hardware. In 2003, the SALT Human Rights Award was presented to Mr. Stevenson by the Society of American Law Teachers. In 2004, he received the Award for Courageous Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Lawyer for the People Award from the National Lawyers Guild. In 2006, New York University presented Mr. Stevenson with its Distinguished Teaching Award.