Just Mercy – Budget Unknown – 2 hours and 16 minutes
In 1987, Walter McMillian, Johnny D to his family, cleared trees and looked up to the evening sky. He had no idea it would be the last day he would look at the sky as a free man. On the way home, he was met with a police blockade. The sheriff told him to get out of the car. He was arrested for the brutal murder of Ronda Morrison. After the jury sentenced Johnny D to life, the judge overrode their sentence and give Johnny D the death penalty. In Jackson, Georgia, Bryan Stevenson is an intern meeting with death row inmates to update them about their case. He is stunned to see a man his age and with the same background on death row. After he graduates Harvard 2 years later, Bryan moves to Alabama, he gets federal funding to start the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), and he hires Eva as his Director of Operations. Bryan is unprepared for the uphill battle he will have just to rent an office, nevermind defending his clients. When he meets Johnny D for the first time, Bryan is faced with a humiliating, unnecessary, and illegal strip search. Before he meets Johnny D, Bryan meets Herbert. A Vietnam vet with extreme emotional trauma and delusions. Herbert admits to leaving a bomb on the doorstep that killed a girl but he was delusional at the time. He thought he was being attacked. Bryan takes his case and hopes he can have Herbert put in a mental facility. After meeting 4 other clients, Bryan meets Johnny D. He offers to help Johnny D but Johnny D doesn’t want to hear it. Johnny D gets frustrated and leaves. Bryan refuses to quit and meets with Johnny D’s family. They all admit attending a church fish fry with Johnny D the day of the murder. And later, a co-worker says Johnny D was with him. Bryan tells the family he will take the case and they don’t have to worry about paying. The EJI works for free. After hearing Bryan met with his family, Johnny D agrees to let Bryan be his lawyer. But he warns Bryan that he is about to make a lot of enemies and could be killed. Bryan refuses to give up because wants everyone to have an equal shot at justice.
Based on Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, this story is moving, painful, and honest (FTC Affiliate Disclaimer). It speaks on the unfair scales of justice based on race, class, economics, and political standing. You will be moved to tears when Bryan’s efforts fall short for some. You will be enraged when blatant displays of injustice are ignored. You will be disgusted as a town, who prides itself as the home of To Kill a Mockingbird, defends a sheriff’s open disregard for the criminal justice system. At first glance, you will become angry at Ralph Myers. But as the film progress, you will learn the true nature of why he has done what he has done. You will sympathize with his agonizing decision. When you watch, remind yourself: This didn’t happen during slavery or Jim Crow laws. This happened in the late 1980s, less than 40 years ago. Bryan eloquently stresses that many sit on death row because they had inadequate or no legal representation at the time. Life and death is not a decision that should be based on injustice. To make a donation to the EJI, click here.
I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars
I taught you all of that – Johnny D
People just want to know what your intentions are – Thomas Chapman
I don’t need people to like me as long as I’m doing what I’m supposed to do – Eve Ansley
I believe that hopelessness is the enemy of justice – Bryan Stevenson
He got any kids? – Ralph Myers