It’s the second week of December and we have super important issues to talk with you this month – like, for instance, the post that gave me the subject for today.
Just Mercy, a movie based on real facts, shows the fight inside a flawed Law system filled with prejudice. A strong and sad movie, but at the same time with a satisfying end – no spoilers before the post starts, I promise – a story that’s very difficult not to get emotional.
I hope you’re ready!
“We can’t change the world only with ideas on our minds. We need conviction in our hearts.“– Just Mercy (Translated from Portuguese by Artemis)
Just Mercy – About the Movie
Just Mercy is a North American drama movie released in 2019, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and starred by Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall and Brie Larson.
It tells the story, based on real facts, of Walter McMillian, who, with the help of the young lawyer Bryan Stevenson, appeals from his murder sentence. The movie is based on his memories, written bt Stevenson.
“If we can look us close and honestly, I believe that we’ll see we all need justice. We all need mercy.”– Just Mercy (Translated from Portuguese by Artemis)
Just Mercy had its world premiere on the International Cinema Festival of Toronto in September 6, 2019 and it was released on theaters by Warner Bros Pictures in December 25, 2019.
The movie received positive critiques and Jamie Foxx received a nominee for Best Performance by a male actor as a support role on the 26th Screen Actor Guild Awards.
In 1989, Bryan Stevenson, a young black man with a Law dregree in Harvard, travels to Alabama with the desire and hope to help fighting for people that don’t have access to an adequate representation on the system.
He meets Eva Ansley and founds the Equal Justice Initiative (organization which exists until today), travelling to a prision in order to meet people whom he’ll provide his services – people that already find themselves on the death row.
One of them is Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian, an African American man who was sentenced for the murder, in 1986, of Ronda Morrison, a young 18 year old white woman. Stevenson examins every part and evidence on the case and soon understands McMillian’s sentence is a desastrous combination of structural racism and a judicial system that can’t be trusted.
Soon, he finds out the case depends totally from the testimony of an also sentenced criminal, Ralph Myers – a testimony that wasn’t based in any physical evidence, once that McMillian was on the church the time the crime happened, with many witnesses, being one of them a cop.
The testimony was contradictory and, in return, a lighter sentence would be used on Myers’ case.
The young man needs to act, so his first step is to ask for help of the case’s prosecutor. The man dismisses him without even looking at his annotations or proof that Stevenson had to make the sentence in favour of his client.
The lawyer goes for his next step, asking for the help of the McMillian family’s friend, Darnell, so he declares in court that he was with a testimony who would make Myers’ testimony on the day of the murder stronger – which would cause a flaw on the prosecutor’s case.
When Stevenson sends Darnell’s testimony, the police arrests the man for perjury. The lawyer is able to deny the accusations of perjury on Darnell, but the man is intimidated, making him refuse to testify in favour of his friend for fear.
Carefully, the lawyer, then, tries to get closer to Myers, who admitis at a certain point that his testimony was exchanged because he was pressured by the cops with one of his biggest fears: to be burned alive, being threatened to be executed on an electric chair.
Stevenson fights so the court will hold another trial for McMillian, convincing Myers as well to say what he knew as a witness on court – but the judge refuses it.
Without knowing what to do and thinking not only he should fullfil his mission, but also give justice to the family who deserves it, the young lawyer then tries other ways to draw attention to the case, to fullfil what he “promissed” he would do.
He appears on “60 Minutes” to gather public support in favour of McMillian, also appealing to the Supreme Court of Alabama. The Supreme Court obviously at this point was exposed enough – things with that reach should be controlled, that’s why they overrule the previous decision and grant McMillian a new trial.
Stevenson is a young man with strong character – he knows he must persist, because nothing comes easily; therefore, he insists the accusations are denied and goes after the prosecutor one more time asking him to join them – but the prosecutor gets mad and kicks him out of the place they were.
With that, anyway, we can see the world shows that to get to real justice, “Blood, Sweat and Tears” are necessary and specially when the social class, colour, status – among other situations – aren’t the same of those who the Law doesn’t convict.
Countless times we see that in this world people don’t always want the real guilty for the crime: they want someone to blame.
But, fortunately, it wasn’t what happened on McMillian’s case. The wits and boldness of Stevenson made that on the day of the trial, the prosecutor joined him on his movement and then the case is closed, making McMillian reunites with his family again.
Morrison’s case was never solved: only a few evidences pointed that the person who commited the crime was also a white man.
Stevenson and Ansley kept with his work fighting for justice for those who didn’t receive support until today – even suffering threats for doing their job, they never gave up. As well as McMillian never ceased to be a friend of the lawyer who managed to get him out of the death row.
To end this post, I’d like to tell you why I chose this movie for this special week we’re entering. Just Mercy doesn’t show anything different than many movies – about the theme – show.
Prejudice, racism, discrimination – among other things – shows that injustice is among us. It’s not because this story is set in the 80’s that we’d say “this doesn’t happen anymore” – because yes, it happens and it’ll keep happening if there aren’t more people like Stevenson and Ansley.
The movie and the real story of McMillian shows not only him: it also represents other stories, being that of convicts who also went through a situation like his – and that are even seen as monsters by the media.
Like, for instance, a veteran from the Vietnam War with post traumatic stress – the story of Herbert Richardson is one of the stories the movie tells, among other situations that should have different ways than the ones that were taken.
But, still, even with the indications and everything that was possible to see all those years, nothing changed. Almost 30 years later, the problem persists – the death penalty is still permitted in 30 states on the USA and more than 1.500 people were executed on the country since 1973.
My question is: all of them had the condition of having a Stevenson to intervine on their sentences?
All of them were guilty?
What do you think? The Sisterhood of the Moon awaits your comment telling us your opinion!
“Hope allows us to go forward, even when the truth is distorted by the people on power. That allows us to raise when they order us to sit and to speak when they tell us to be quiet.”– Just Mercy (Translated from Portuguese by Artemis)