Walter. Mcmillen, Bryan Stevenson, Alabama discussed on Here & Now
Listen and subscribe to life gave the film. Just mercy is out today in theaters across the country and it tells the true story of lawyer Bryan Stevenson and his efforts to exonerate a man on death. Yeah throw why are you doing this. Why am I know you lower down in Alabama taking these cases that ain't nobody GonNa pay for when I was a teenager? My grandfather was murdered over a black and white TV. We kept waiting for someone to show up to help. And that's when I realized last that outside my community. Nobody care to sit him. He's just another black man killed in a projects. I know what it's like to be an shadows house while I'm doing this in the film. Jamie Fox portrays the role of Walter. mcmillen a black man from Alabama. Who was wrongly accused and convicted of murder and sat on death row for six years? Michael Jordan plays the role of Stevenson. This film comes at a pivotal time. As states throughout the country are reexamining the use of the death penalty joining us now for more on. Just mercy is the inspiration behind the movie and Executive Producer Bryan Stevenson. Welcome to here now. Now and congrats on the film. Thank you it's great to be with you. Yes we'll Brian. Just mercy is based on your memoir of the same name and I hear you were a big part of producing this film contributing to the writing of the script. How does it feel to have your story on the big screen like this? Was it something you always wanted to do. Well not really. It's kind of surreal to be in this place. I mean I think you know after thirty five years of going into jails and prisons and standing next to condemned people facing execution. It never crossed my mind that You know that would turn into an experience like this. When I wrote the book I I was just trying to get people? Closer to the reality of over incarceration in America To the problems that we have in this system that I continue to creep treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're pouring innocent and even after the book was finished I'd I'd really didn't have any clue or idea that someone would want to make a film so it's been really surreal but it's been pretty exciting You know the the people involved have been so committed and so Dedicated to getting this right That I feel really good about the film and I'm excited that the people will have a chance to see. This movie offers a small L.. Slice of your life and work. You're the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative which represents people on death row and you've also been instrumental in pretty significant reform Twenty twelve US Supreme Court decision to ban mandatory life parole for minors convicted of murder. This story in this film focuses on one of your earliest cases. Says Walter mcmillen. How are you able to narrow your work to this story? Why was this one specifically an important one to tell? Yeah when I was writing the book it was just going going to be one of maybe twenty or so cases that I talked about at length but there was so much richness in the Walter mcmillen case I mean first first of all the crime took place in Monroeville Alabama Which is where Harper Lee grew up? Is the setting of the fictional novel Tequila mockingbird in that community so embrace this romanticized that story it was surreal when I began working on this case to have a whole community. Indeed directing me to the Tequila Mockingbird bird museum talking proudly about their relationship to that story While I was trying to get them to pay attention to the plight up an innocent black man who had been wrongly accused of killing a young white woman and I just thought there was a lot to exploring the case Mr Macmillan was poor he was a person. It's not color The people who convicted him I think had every reason to know that he was not guilty and yet he was convicted and sentenced wants to death. Anyway they put him on death row before he would actually been tried or convicted of any crime and too many elements that exposed the way fear. Your anger has shaped our criminal justice policy making in this country and it just was a really powerful medium through which to talk about these issues. MHM I watched this film with my twelve year old daughter and I thought to myself as we watched it was a difficult but really important introduction for her to some of the major major flaws in the criminal justice system and twenty fourteen forty two percent of those on death row were black. It's a big question I'm about to ask you. But how do we begin to grapple grapple with the racist legacy that is really led to these disparities. I think we do have to begin talking more honestly about our history of racial injustice. I don't think in our country has ever engaged in any meaningful process of knowledge The injustice inequality. I think we're a post genocide society what we did to native people was a genocide and we haven't acknowledged that and we've allowed You know systems to continue that have been compromised by these narratives racial difference I think the great evil of slavery was an involuntary servitude. It was this idea that black people aren't as good as white people and that continues after the thirteenth amendment. And it's why argued slightly doesn't end it just evolves and we had one hundred years of terrorism and lynching and violence were black. People were pulled out of their homes and beaten and murdered and drowned tortured and lynched. And we've never really talked about that and even though we pay more attention to did the civil rights era. We haven't confronted the fact that this presumption of dangerousness guilt that gets assigned to black and Brown people is still with us. It's why I. These police encounters with young black people that end up with lethal violence or so disruptive and so painful. So I think we're going to have have to commit to a process of truth injustice in America you go to places like South Africa and Germany and you see evidence of nations that have grappled with their history of apartheid And the Holocaust. But we haven't really done that in Germany. You can't go two hundred meters without seeing markers or stones or symbols that have been placed next to the homes homes of Jewish families that reducted during the Holocaust but in this country we haven't created that kind of architecture created that kind of landscape to cause people to remember and reflect on the challenges created by slavery and lynching and segregation. And I think that leaves us vulnerable to content to new manifestations of that AH legacy which is what causes people like Walter mcmillen to be wrongly convicted sentenced to death and almost executed in our contemporary system. I WanNa talk with you about your depiction in the movie. After you graduated from Harvard University he decided to move to Alabama. And there's a scene Where are your mother clearly worried about your well being says goodbye to you and essentially tells you you're exceptionalism won't save you and it's something the thing in the film that McMillan says well let's take a listen Rizwan from harvey you'll know what it is? Here you get from the moment you bowl you can buddy over these white folks and make them laugh and try to make him like it. Whatever that is and you say yes or no man but when it showed earning got ahead no fingerprints Brian? Did that really happen. And how do you negotiate your identity and safety with your work. Yeah I I always tell people that you can't do this kind of work but just ideas in your mind to make a difference in this space. You've got to have the ideas in your mind. Fueled by conviction in your heart and the great gift I have have is that I am the grandson of people who were enslaved. And they believe in freedom when it wasn't rational too and I'm the grandchild of people who were terrorized by lynching and they believed in a better future even though that didn't seem a logical the child of people humiliated by segregation and Jim Crow and yet they believed. I could be anything I want. And it's that orientation of hopefulness Sustained me You know we say in the film and I say when I give talks I believe that hopelessness is the enemy of justice. If you WANNA do justice work you have to be prepared to believe things you have in seen in. And it's what continues continues to to define work tried to do today. This film is called just mercy and it it really. Is this idea. That mercy appeals your work the the film primarily follows a story of Macmillan who is innocent but we also see the story of Herbert Richardson. WHO's homemade bomb killed a young girl? Let's take a listen. I.