Thursday September 22, 2016
'Very clear line' between lynching and death penalty: Alabama lawyer
more stories from this episode
- 'Very clear line' between lynching and death penalty: Alabama lawyer
- Extradition treaty with China signals troubling trade-offs, say critics
- Canadians tortured in Syria: Lawyer calls for investigation into RCMP
- Law Society report suggests ways to end systemic racism in legal professions
- September 22, 2016 full episode transcript
- Full Episode
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.
"[In the U.S.], 156 people 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 on the row, which is a really shameful rate of error," Stevenson tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.
In his new book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Stevenson says that when lynching stopped, 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."
"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.
"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."
"And in many ways it's our community and standing with the broken that will get us closer to justice."
This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.