The Life of Civil Rights Hero Bryan Stevenson

Legendary civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson has saved more than 135 wrongly convicted prisoners on death row. He's the subject of a new documentary that looks at racism in the criminal justice system — this is his story. True Justice: Bryan Stevenson's Fight for Equality debuts on June 26th on HBO.

Stevenson has gone from a death row lawyer to a major public figure.

Giving a voice to the voiceless and challenging bias in the criminal justice system is key to the career of civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson. Born in 1959, he grew up in Milton, southern Delaware. He went to Eastern College before attending Harvard Law School. After graduating in 1985, he decided to move to Montgomery, Alabama — home of the highest per capita rate of death penalty sentencing — to become a public defender.

“I don't believe that the opposite of poverty is wealth. I believe that the opposite of poverty is justice. And when we do justice, we deconstruct the conditions that give rise to poverty. I don't think we've created many places in America where we tell the history of slavery or the history of lynching the history of segregation. In a way that motivates everybody black, white, brown, young, old. to feel inspired to say, “Never again”, says Trey Ellis, Executive Producer HBO documentary True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality.

In 1989, Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). It guarantees legal representation to death row inmates. With EJI, Stevenson has saved more than 135 wrongly convicted prisoners on death row, including Walter McMillian, who was wrongly convicted for the murder of a white woman in Monroeville, Alabama, and Anthony Ray Hinton, who was held on death row for 28 years.

Stevenson has won multiple cases at the Supreme Court, such as the 2012 landmark case Miller v. Alabama, that ended life sentences without parole for all minors. In February 2019, he won a key ruling protecting condemned prisoners who have dementia. In 2018, EJI opened the first national memorial to black lynching victims and The Legacy Museum, which chronicle the legacy of slavery and its connection to mass incarceration.

Stevenson has gone from a death row lawyer to a major public figure.

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