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Keywords: Murder,Mental illness,Prison,Pregnancy,Crime,Mental health
Innocent until proven guilty is not always the case for some people. Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy is about him becoming a lawyer and revealing true events that has happened to people. In the book, Stevenson explains how he represented and gave guidance to a man by the name of Walter McMillian who was wrongfully convicted of murdering a woman, Rhonda Morrison, and was eventually released after six years of being on Alabama’s Death Row. Stevenson uses Walter’s circumstance and other true events to illustrate his book. He uses logos effectively by providing readers with solid evidence of what he is stating such as people with a mental illness being put on death row, how there is corruption in the police force, and how women are targeted by police and other law enforcements, especially poor ones. Stevenson supports his claims with evidence, facts, and the ability to show proof and verification.
The first way Stevenson uses logos is how prisons hold large amounts of mentally ill people. He states, “America’s prisons have become warehouses for the mentally ill”. He follows by stating “Mass incarceration has been largely fueled by misguided drug policy and excessive sentencing, but the internment of hundreds of thousands of poor and mentally ill people has been driving force in achieving our record levels of imprisonment. It’s created unprecedented problems”. This allows the reader to understand how many people are sent to prison with mental disabilities, and makes the reader think about how the person with the mental illness could be helped or getting treatments in other facilities in oppose to going to prison and being placed on death row. Stevenson points that “Today, over 50 percent of prison and jail inmates in the united states have a diagnosed mental illness, a rate nearly five times greater than that of the general adult population. Nearly one in five prison and jail inmates has a serious mental illness. In, fact there are more than three times the number of seriously mentally ill individuals in jail or prison than in hospitals; in some states that number is ten times. And prison is a terrible place for someone with mental illness or a neurological disorder that prison guards are not trained to understand”. This persuades the reader that Stevenson is using evidence and facts to prove to the reader that there are a great number of people in prison or on death row with a mental illness and moves the reader to agree with Stevenson that prison is not a place for a person with a mental illness to be.
Throughout the book, Stevenson has taken many cases involving a person with a mental illness such as Herbert Richardson, who had a history of psychological health problems and trauma. He was executed for unintentionally killing a young girl. He also took the case of a man named Avery Jenkins who was a disabled man, convicted of murder and sentenced to be executed. Stevenson won his case, and Jenkins was eventually sent to a mental facility. People should have the opportunity to get the help and treatment they need. Throughout the book, Stevenson explains how Sheriff Tate and other law enforcement are not following the laws and pursuing situations unfairly such as the false testimony from Ralph Myers against Walter McMillian. “Ralph Myers began to have second thoughts about his allegations against McMillian. He was also facing indictment in the Morrison murder. He’d been promised that he wouldn’t get the death penalty and would get favorable treatment in exchange for his testimony, but it was starting to dawn on him that admitting to involvement in a high-profile murder that he had nothing to do with was probably not smart. A few days before the capital murder charges against McMillian were made public, Myers summoned police investigators and told them his allegations against McMillian weren’t true. At this point, Tate and his investigators had little interest in Myers recantation. Instead, they decided to pressure Myers to produce more incriminating details because, well, the story wasn’t true, the investigators weren’t having it. It’s not clear who decided to put both Myers and McMillian on death row before trial to create additional pressure, but it was a nearly unprecedented maneuver that proved very effective”. Stevenson then states “It is illegal to subject pretrial detainees like Walter and Myers to confinement that constitutes punishment. Pretrial detainees are generally housed in local jails, where they enjoy more privileges and more latitude than convicted criminals who are sent to prison…”. This shows the reader that Stevenson is providing facts that it was unlawful and wrong for both Myers and McMillian to be sent to death row without being convicted. This also proves that Sheriff Tate and other investigators are not following the laws how they should be, especially by making Myers testify falsely against McMillian. Sheriff Tate and the Investigators should have been penalized or punished for what happened and be released from their duties.
Another way Stevenson uses logos is he took the case of a woman named Marsha Colbey. Colbey was a poor white woman living with her husband and children in a crowded trailer. She soon found out that she was pregnant, and all the worrisome and anxiety led her back to wanting drugs. “Marsha knew that a pregnancy at her age was very risky, but she couldn’t afford to see a doctor, she just didn’t have the money to spare. Having endured six previous deliveries, she knew what to expect and thought she’d make the best of it with prenatal care. She tried not to worry even though she’d been experiencing pains and problems with this pregnancy that she didn’t remember having before. There had been bleeding; if she could have afforded an examination, a doctor would have found signs of placental abruption… One day, she wasn’t feeling well and thought a long hot bath would do her good. She settled into a tub of hot water minutes before a violent labor began. She sensed it was happening too fast and before she knew it, she’d delivered a stillborn son. She desperately tried to revive the infant, but he never took a breath”. Colbey buried the infant near their home, when their neighbor eventually noticed that she was not pregnant anymore. She then told a worker at the school she worked at to call the police. Marsha Colbey was charged with capital murder. “In time, the Alabama Supreme Court interpreted the term environment to include the womb and the term child to include fetus. Pregnant women could now be criminally prosecuted and sent to prison for decades if there was any evidence that they had used drugs at any point during their pregnancy. Dozens of women have been sent to prison under this law in recent years, rather than getting the help they needed”. Marsha Colbey had used drugs prior to her pregnancy, but never during. This shows the reader that Stevenson provided evidence to show how woman were being sent to prison without getting the right help. Women can not help if they give birth to a stillborn baby, and they certainly should not be punished for it especially if they are poor.
Stevenson successfully uses logos by effectively giving concrete evidence of what he is stating. He provided facts after illustrating events such as people with mental illnesses being put in prison and placed on death row, how there is corruption in the police force, and how women are being targeted by law enforcements, especially poor ones. Stevenson supports his claims with facts, evidence, and the ability to show proof and verification. Stevenson also persuades the reader more efficiently by confirming and validating what he is stating in those events.
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