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Introduction: Higher Ground
Chapter One: Mockingbird Players
Chapter Two: Stand
Chapter Three: Trials and Tribulation
Chapter Four: The Old Rugged Cross
Chapter Five: Of the Coming of John
Chapter Six: Surely Doomed
Chapter Seven: Justice Denied
Chapter Eight: All God’s Children
Chapter Nine: I’m Here
Chapter Ten: Mitigation
Chapter Eleven: I’ll Fly Away
Chapter Twelve: Mother, Mother
Chapter Thirteen: Recovery
Chapter Fourteen: Cruel and Unusual
Chapter Fifteen: Broken
Chapter Sixteen: The Stonecatchers’ Song of Sorrow
Chapter One: Mockingbird Players
The temporary receptionist was an elegant African American woman wearing a dark, expensive business suit a well-dressed exception to the usual crowd at the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee (SPDC) in Atlanta, where I had returned after graduation to work full time.
On her first day, I’d rambled over to her in my regular uniform of jeans and sneakers and offered to answer any questions she might have to help her get acclimated.
She looked at me coolly and waved me away after reminding me that she was, in fact, an experienced legal secretary.
The next morning, when I arrived at work in another jeans and sneakers ensemble, she seemed startled, as if some strange vagrant had made a wrong turn into the office.
She took a beat to compose herself, then summoned me over to confide that she was leaving in a week to work at a “real law office.” I wished her luck.
An hour later, she called my office to tell me that “Robert E. Lee” was on the phone. I smiled, pleased that I’d misjudged her; she clearly had a sense of humor.
“That’s really funny.”
“I’m not joking. That’s what he said,” she said, sounding bored, not playful. “Line two.” I picked up the line.
“Hello, this is Bryan Stevenson. May I help you?”
“Bryan, this is Robert E. Lee Key. Why in the hell would you want to represent someone like Walter McMillian? Do you know he’s reputed to be one of the biggest drug dealers in all of South Alabama? I got your notice entering an appearance, but you don’t want anything to do with this case.”
“This is Judge Key, and you don’t want to have anything to do with this McMillian case.
No one really understands how depraved this situation truly is, including me, but I know it’s”
There were just a few attorneys working at the SPDC when I arrived that winter.
Most of them were former criminal defense lawyers from Washington who had come to Georgia in response to a growing crisis: Death row prisoners couldn’t get lawyers.
In their thirties, men and women, black and white, these lawyers were comfortable with one another in a way that reflected a shared mission, shared hope, and shared stress about the challenges they faced.
After years of prohibition and delay, executions were again taking place in the Deep South, and most of the people crowded on death row had no lawyers and no right to counsel.
There was a growing fear that people would soon be killed without ever having their cases reviewed by skilled counsel.
We were getting frantic calls every day from people who had no legal assistance but whose dates of execution were on the calendar and approaching fast.
I’d never heard voices so desperate.
When I started my internship, everyone was extremely kind to me, and I felt immediately at home.
The SPDC was located in downtown Atlanta in the Healey Building, a sixteen-story Gothic Revival structure built in the early 1900s that was in considerable decline and losing tenants.
I worked in a cramped circle of desks with two lawyers and did clerical work, answering phones and researching legal questions for staff.
I was just getting settled into my office routine when Steve asked me to go to death row to meet with a condemned man whom no one else had time to visit.
He explained that the man had been on the row for over two years and that they didn’t yet have a lawyer to take his case; my job was to convey to this man one simple message: You will not be killed in the next year.
I drove through farmland and wooded areas of rural Georgia, rehearsing what I would say when I met this man. I practiced my introduction over and over.
“Hello, my name is Bryan. I’m a student with the …” No. “I’m a law student with …” No.
“My name is Bryan Stevenson. I’m a legal intern with the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee, and I’ve been instructed to inform you that you will not be executed soon.”
“You can’t be executed soon.” “You are not at risk of execution anytime soon.” No.
I continued practicing my presentation until I pulled up to the intimidating barbed-wire fence and white guard tower of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center.
Around the office we just called it “Jackson,” so seeing the facility’s actual name on a sign was jarring—it sounded clinical, even therapeutic.
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Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Pdf Free Download