This story is updated from a version that was published Aug. 17, 2016.
Attorney and author Bryan Stevenson, whose intimate account of politics and error in the U.S. criminal justice system became SMU’s 2016 Common Reading, visits the Hilltop on Thursday, Oct. 13. The Common Reading Public Lecture begins at 4:30 p.m. in McFarlin Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
Also on Thursday, at 8 p.m., Stevenson will deliver the Jones Day Lecture in SMU’s 2016-17 Tate Distinguished Lecture Series.
Students who wish to attend the Tate Lecture can go to the basement of McFarlin Auditorium at 7 p.m. with their SMU IDs for possible free seating on a first-come, first-served basis.
Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of the criminal justice system.
One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machinations, and legal brinksmanship — and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice. His telling of the McMillian case is captured in Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.
The story is “[e]very bit as moving as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so … a searing indictment of American criminal justice and a stirring testament to the salvation that fighting for the vulnerable sometimes yields,” wrote David Cole of The New York Review of Books in his review.
And Stevenson is “doing God’s work fighting for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope,” wrote legal writer and novelist John Grisham, author of A Time to Kill, The Client and The Innocent Man.