Bryan Stevenson, lawyer for African American death row inmates

Bryan Stevenson in New York, November 22, 2019.
Bryan Stevenson in New York, November 22, 2019. Caroline Tompkins for M magazine du Monde

For a long time, he saw himself as a simple man in the shadows. An anonymous lawyer whose erasure and extreme discretion served a much more noble cause: to defend black detainees, most of them minors, on death row, and to allow them to escape from the electric chair. Bryan Stevenson set out on this mission while studying law at Harvard, where he graduated in 1985.

On the benches of the college, the young man, come from the very racist State of Delaware, had been struck by the discrepancy between education and the big question which preoccupied him: the place of the Blacks in the United States, or rather their absence of space. "It was my emergency, my only horizon. " This horizon has never changed. But Bryan Stevenson, and the cause of which he became one of the symbols, took a central place in American society in the 2010s, notably with the installation of a black president in the White House between 2009 and 2016.

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He himself became a star after the publication in 2014 of his book of memoirs, Just Mercy: a Story of Justice and Redemption, unpublished in France, which appeared for more than a year at the top of the bestseller list in the United States. A reputation that makes Bryan Stevenson a regular guest of the famous host Oprah Winfrey, a public figure. And today, in addition to being a media personality, the 60-year-old lawyer is becoming a movie character.

Ideal culprit

The film The Way of Justice, by Destin Daniel Cretton (in theaters January 29), is the story of one of his most famous feats of arms: the 1993 acquittal of Walter McMillian, a worker in Monroeville, Alabama, unjustly sentenced to death for murder . As McMillian, the star of Django Unchained, Jamie Foxx. And in that of Bryan Stevenson, Michael B. Jordan, one of the most prominent actors of the moment, noticed in the series Friday Night Lights, and become the star of Creed and of Black panther.

On the screen, the actor, with imposing musculature, brings a corpulence that the lawyer, with his slender body, does not have. "I'm a lawyer, he's a movie star", sums up the latter. Before specifying: "But our skin color will always make us targets during a police check. What the film stages when my character is arrested in the middle of the night for a simple and useless identity check. It doesn't matter if you are a journalist, professor, artist, you have to fight to fight the prejudices associated with your race. "


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