Just Mercy

by Bryan Stevenson

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Student Question

In Just Mercy, why is Bryan Stevenson nervous about Ralph Myers before Walter McMillian's retrial?

Quick answer:

Bryan Stevenson is still nervous about Ralph Myers before the retrial of Walter McMillian because he's worried that his testimony will lack credibility. Prior to the trial, Myers had been bombarding Bryan's office with all kinds of strange thoughts, ideas, and conspiracies. Bryan is clearly worried that he'll share some of this on the witness stand during Walter's retrial.

Expert Answers

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It was the false accusation of Ralph Myers, a white criminal, that sent Walter McMillian to death row. It was he who testified that he saw Walter murder Ronda Morrison.

Despite his being a serial criminal, despite his mental illness, and despite his reputation for telling tall stories to get attention, Ralph's testimony was believed by the jury, so Walter was convicted of Ronda's death and sentenced to die.

Yet now, in an astonishing turnaround, Ralph is going to testify on behalf of the defense in Walter's forthcoming retrial. Ever since he made the damning testimony that sent Walter to death row, Ralph has made constant efforts to retract his false accusation. Now, with a retrial in the offing, he has the opportunity to atone for his previous lies and tell the court that Walter is completely innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

Bryan is still incredibly nervous, however. He knows that it won't take much for a skilled prosecution attorney to undermine Ralph's credibility on the witness stand. As we've seen, Ralph is notorious for making up stories to get attention. For good measure, he's also been convicted for his involvement in a murder, which further undermines his credibility.

To make matters worse, in the days leading up to the retrial, Ralph bombards Bryan's office with all kinds of crazy thoughts, ideas, and conspiracies. Bryan's assistant Michael is understandably concerned about what Bryan euphemistically describes as Ralph's “unique perspective on the world.”

Evidently, he and Bryan are worried that Ralph will indulge in some of this craziness on the witness stand, thus undermining their case.

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