Prominent equal justice lawyer to give talk Feb. 15 at Kenyon

Staff report

Bryan Stevenson, a leading advocate for equal treatment in the courts, will give a talk Monday, Feb. 15, at Kenyon College on “American Injustice: Mercy, Humanity and Making a Difference.”

Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, fights against the death penalty and has been called “America’s young Nelson Mandela” by South African anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu. His speech at 7:30 p.m. in Rosse Hall, 105 College Drive, is open to the public.

The winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant, Stevenson and his nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative have helped secure the release of several death row prisoners declared innocent. The group defends clients who often are indigent, minorities or youths against excessive or unfair sentences.

He has won many U.S. Supreme Court victories, including a ruling that mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional.

Reginald Sanders, the James D. & Cornelia W. Ireland Professor of Music who shares Stevenson’s passion for social justice, worked with the Faculty Lectureships program to bring the lawyer to campus because “it seems clear that our justice system is not operating fairly for certain groups of people in society,” he said.

Stevenson’s fervor for equality has gained the attention of the White House. President Barack Obama appointed him to the “Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” created in 2014 after shootings by officers around the country. Sanders said Stevenson is making “a huge contribution to society and bringing to light a problem that our society faces.”

After his speech, Stevenson will sign copies of his 2014 best-selling memoir, “Just Mercy.”

Staff report