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We will begin reading Just Mercy written by Bryan Stevenson. Each chapter read
requires a response to discussion questions that will be answered in your
class journal. Remember that Journal related assignments have a significant
impact on your grade if not done well and on-time.
Your hand-written answers to questions from Ch. 1-2 are due
1. How did Stevenson’s background prepare him for law school?
2. In the introduction, he discusses his grandmother’s background and
what impact that had on his career choices. What from your own personal
background has influenced your career choices?
3. What famous novel was written in Monroe County, AL, and how is it
relevant to Just Mercy?
4. In what ways ‘Alabama’s economic policies disadvantage the state’s
African American population?
5. Why was Ralph Myers considered to be so trustworthy by the Monroe
County police department?
1. Does your state have Stand Your Ground laws? Do you support them?
2. Stevenson wished he had been more assertive with the police while
they were illegally searching his car. Do you think that would have been
effective? How would you recommend someone respond in a similar situation?
3. Do you think the police officers acted appropriately? How else might
they have approached the situation?
4. Likewise, did their supervisors respond fairly to Stevenson’s
5. How did the senior citizen attending Stevenson’s church lecture earn
his “medals of honor”?
Due February 10th: Your IP Subject should be established and
a preliminary objective outlined in your class journal due ATEOC.
Your hand-written answers to questions from Ch. 3-4 are due
February 17th. In addition to writing the answer (2-3 sentences), quote from
the book/page number the 2 or 3 lines that provide support/evidence of your
1. What is the importance of the 1986 Batson v. Kentucky ruling?
2. How does diversity in a jury affect its deliberations?
3. If you were in Chestnut or Boynton’s position, would you have tried to move
4. Who were some of Walter McMillian’s most important allies?
5. In your opinion, who is most to blame for Walter’s conviction?
6. Walter was both poor and black. Do you think his story would have played
out the same if he had been
Describe the 1982 Supreme Court ruling related to death penalty appeals. What
impact did that have across the country?
2. When do judge overrides increase and for what reason?
3. Define the 2002 Supreme Court case of Atkins v. Virginia.
4. Alabama’s capital statute requires that murder be intentional in order for
a defendant to be eligible for the death penalty. Why is this relevant in
5. Richardson was a U.S. war veteran who suffered tremendous mental trauma
while serving our nation. How should that be factored into his defense?
6. What is “untimely” evidence? Was this a fair ruling, in your opinion, in
Stevenson’s appeals filing?
7. Richardson remarks on the frequent offers of help from the prison staff
during his final day. What do you make of these offers?
8. At this point in Just Mercy, Stevenson’s legal defense center is seriously
underfunded while also highly in demand. Not many people would have the
stamina to continue facing the major challenges he is facing. What impact does
Richardson’s execution have on him? How would you feel in his position?
Your hand-written answers (in your journal) to Chapter 5-6
questions (below) are due Monday, March 6th.
1. While Stevenson is meeting Walter’s family, do you think he is confident
Walter will be free? How
would you handle that situation?
2. How is the relationship between Stevenson and Walter changing? What
does the author cite as an
important activity for lawyers to do when defending death row prisoners?
3.. Why does it annoy Stevenson that To Kill a Mockingbird is a point of
pride in Monroeville?
4. How would you characterize Stevenson’s mood at the end of this
5. Based only on what you know up to this point, are you hopeful for
1. In what ways has the judicial system failed to protect Charlie?
2. What special circumstances of the murder victim lead to greater
struggles for Charlie? Does this seem fair?
3. How does Stevenson finally convince Charlie to speak with him?
4. What is your opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Jennings?
IP Journal Entry Step 2: Due Friday, March 3rd:
Identify 3 research references that you will be using as a basis for
developing your IP. Write a paragraph summary of each explaining its value
toward your project. (30 points).
Identify a particular person who you may have already contacted or that you
intend to contact to help with your research. If you have already conducted an
interview, summarize important findings. (10 points)
March 8th: Unit Test on Mass
Incarceration/Criminal Justice Reform
Just Mercy Questions due Wednesday March 15th:
Write your answer to the questions below. Select any four questions you
wish and provide a quote from the book to support your response.
1. Why do you think the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the appeal
at the start of this
2. Does Myers seem any more reliable now than when he was put on the
stand against Walter?
3. What are your feelings about Payne v. Tennessee?
4. How does the race of the victim factor into decisions about
5. Stevenson and his team are able to discover a significant amount of
new evidence. Thinking back to
Chapter 5, are you any more hopeful now for Walter’s release?
1. What evidence did criminologists have in 1991 to support their
“super-predator” theory? What role
did race play in this theory? What do we now know about the validity of
2. How would you have changed the ruling in Trina, Ian, and Antonio’s
3. Describe what life was like for each of them before they were
arrested. Should that understanding
about their backgrounds make a difference in their sentencing?
4. Is justice being served when children are sentenced to die in prison?
5. How does Ian channel his emotions?
6. How would you react to receiving a letter like the one Ian writes to
IP Step 3 Due March 24th (50 points):
A typed "abstract" of your project consisting of a minimum of 300 words
that summarizes the central focus of your project is due this date.
This should summarize a further analysis of at least three references
you have read and the interview(s) you have conducted so far. At least two two
citations from each of your three references should be included in this
abstract. A clear theme or direction your project is taking should be evident
from this abstract. Finally, you should list the next step(s) you will be
taking to solidify your project i.e., addtional research, interviews, etc.
This phase of the project preceeds a draft of your final project paper
(50 points) that should be in the range of 750-1000 words due April 7th.
Note! I will not accept late project drafts = 0 points. With this much
notice, if you leave early for break, I expect a submitted copy before your