Chapter 13 in “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson focuses on Walter’s life post-incarcerations. The chapter explores the different struggles that Walter experienced after being released from prison. Before mentioning those details, Stevenson mentions how he traveled with Stevenson to many legal conferences where they’d share his story. They did this in hopes of touching others to motivate them to be kinder to Walter and more empathetic towards him. There was even a book that was published by Pete Earley to give a more in depth summary of Walter’s experience with the legal system that goes by the name of “Circumstantial Evidence.” In the book, it is also mentioned that most states do not compensate the wrongly accused. Stevenson goes on to explain, “At the time of Walter’s release, only ten states and the District of Colombia had laws authorizing compensation to people who have been wrongly incarcerated'(page 245). In this quote, Stevenson focuses on the lack of help innocent people that have been incarcerated are likely to receive from the government.
Post the release, Bryan and Walter attempted to file a civil suit against the county for monetary compensation for the time he lost in prison, and they also tried to sue the prosecutor for withholding evidence during the trial. Walter McMillan was able to receive settlements from a couple of the defendants which totaled to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Stevenson was unable to sue the prosecutor because their case was not strong enough. This conclusion was unfair because as a result of this unethical approach Walter wasted years of his life in prison which caused him more harm mentally and physically than good. Later, Walter began working at his logging business, but accidentally broke his neck. Walter could not work for a while and began to live with Bryan in Montgomery. After recovering, Walter wanted to find ways to fend for himself, and as a result, he started a junkyard and car scrap business out of a plot of land he owned in town with the use of his compensation money.
Later, Stevenson got an opportunity to speak to a school in Sweden and receive an award. He promised Walter he would visit him when he came back, but while Stevenson was gone Walter had an interview in which he broke down sobbing. In the book, it states, “‘They put me on death row for six years! They threatened me for six years. They tortured me with the promise of execution for six years. I lost my job. I lost my wife. I lost my reputation. I lost my-I lost my dignity’” (page 254). This quote was said by Walter during the interview, and it drove him to become emotional because he was reflecting on the six years of his life that was stolen from him because he was sent to prison where he was tortured, and robbed of his life and family. This was amongst many of the quotes said in the book that made it clear that Walter’s experience was overall traumatizing and saddening. In addition, chapter goes on to explain that Walter did not realize how much being on death row affected him until he was freed. Walter complained about the nightmares that he’s had post being incarcerated.
Furthermore, Walters post-release story has taught us the importance of perseverance because Walter never gave up on hope both while in prison and while he was out. He was put into prison because of the lies that were told about a crime that he did not commit, while being aware of this, he did not back down, he continued to fight for himself until he was able to make it through. After his release, he received hate from people who wanted him to remain in prison and he also did not receive proper compensation, and yet he still continued to take care of himself and hold his head high to try to get his life back on track. If Walter did not remain optimistic throughout his overall experience, he would probably not have made it as far. Walters experience has also taught us about how unfair the system can be in terms of unethical actions being taken and discrimination. Walter ended up in his situation because there were people within the legal system who plotted against him to the point where they bribed people to testify against him. There was a lot of unethical actions that took place during Walters trial, his case was tempered with to ensure that he did not walk out free.
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