afropunk solution sessions: season 2, episode 6
December 18, 2019
You might know Monroeville, Alabama as the inspiration for the fictional town in To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s classic novel about Civil Rights attorney Atticus Finch’s work to free Tom Robinson, a Black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. But it’s also where in 1986, Ronda Morrison, a white dry-cleaning clerk, was shot and killed. Who killed her?
The state of Alabama said a Black business owner named Walter Dee McMillian did. They arrested him. And despite a criminal justice system that says you’re innocent until proven guilty, they put McMillian on death row before he even had a trial, as if his guilty conviction and sentencing to death were all but a given. Without any proven motive, physical evidence, or claims of having ever met the victim, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.
McMillian was innocent. And it was Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard educated lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization that provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons, who fought tirelessly to save McMillian’s life.
It probably won’t surprise you that the death penalty in America is a racist practice, but it’s also sloppily applied, expensive, and not actually working to make anyone safer. Many states are already ramping down the use of capital punishment because it doesn’t work. It’s time to stop doubling down on this outdated and racist practice for good.
The real question we should be asking is not whether people deserve to die for the crimes they’ve committed, it’s do we deserve to kill.
On this episode of AFROPUNK Solution Sessions, we talk to Bryan Stevenson, founder of Equal Justice Initiative, about his work with incarcerated people and the new film Just Mercy which chronicles his fight to save Walter Dee McMillian from execution.
Stevenson shares the wisdom he’s gained from working to save over 200 wrongly convicted people from being put to death and what you can do to get involved.
- Not underestimating your ability to make a difference.
- Learning more about the criminal justice system in your community by researching prosecutors and volunteering with organizations, and,
- Maintaining hope that the future holds something better than our current criminal justice system.
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