In Multipolarity

Interview with Alabama Attorney Bryan Stevenson, by Anna Maria Tremonti, host of The Current newsmagazine program, on CBC Radio One (Canada), Sept 22, 2016

Introduction by The Current:

Alabama lawyer Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative

Alabama lawyer Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative

As a co-founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson is a disruptor of chronic injustices who fights for the lives of prisoners on Alabama’s death row.

Stevenson tells The Current‘s Anna Maria Tremonti: “[In the U.S.], 156 people have been exonerated after being sentenced to death. That means for every 10 people that have been executed in the U.S., we’ve identified one innocent person, which is a really shameful rate of error.”

In his new book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Stevenson says that when lynching stopped in the U.S., the death penalty started. “[There’s a] very clear line between our history of lynching and the modern death penalty.”

He tells Tremonti when the southern states moved away from public lynchings, “they essentially moved the lynchings indoors and that’s when you see a great increase in the number of death sentences being imposed.”

When Stevenson looks at the injustices of the present, he sees acutely how the wrongs of the past — the legacy of slavery and lynching continue to reverberate today —  in U.S. race relations, the justice system, and the frequent police shootings of black men, as we’ve seen this week in Tulsa, Okla. and Charlotte, N.C.

“Why do we want to kill all the broken people in this country? What is it about us, that when we see brokenness, we want to crush it, we want to hurt it, we want to kill it,” says Stevenson.

But Stevenson sees “power in brokeness.” He says “It is really the broken who understand how compassion is supposed to work.”

He tells Tremonti that he doesn’t do his job because no one will. He does it because he’s broken, too, by what he has experienced in his work. “It’s the broken who have an insight into justice. It’s the broken who have some appreciation for what it means to be restored, redeemed, rehabilitated, recovered.”

Listen to the full conversation at the weblink above. The print transcript of the interview is here.

Related reading:
Curfew imposed in Charlotte, North Carolina as Keith Scott’s family view footage of his killing by police, by Matthew Teague, The Guardian, Sept 23, 2016

Protesters and police in Charlotte confronted each other for a third evening, on Thursday night, in a roaming demonstration as the family of police shooting victim Keith Scott said it still had “more questions than answers” after privately viewing footage of his killing….

Bryan Stevenson explain Equal Justice Initiative’s ambitious plan to build a museum in Alabama dedicated to the history of lynching in the United States:

Note by New Cold
In his interview on CBC’s The Current, Bryan Stevenson says the Equal Justice Initiative has documented 4,000 lynchings of Black people in the United States between 1877 and 1950. The year 1877 marks the beginning of the counter-revolution that ended the period of Radical Reconstruction following the U.S. Civil War and saw the entrenchment of a long period of racist terror and violence.


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