Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2018 - 33

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Through the course of his appellate representation
Stevenson learned about the many ways the system had
failed his client. McMillian was arrested and incarcerated
almost solely based on the statements of a dubious witness
due mainly to the intense public pressure to make an arrest
in the case. McMillian was placed in pre-trial confinement,
not in the county jail, but on death row itself. His trial was
moved from a predominately African-American county to
a predominately white county by the trial judge, Robert E.
Lee Key, who took great pride in his namesake. McMillian's
alibi that he was attending a family fish fry at the time of the
murder was ignored.
Stevenson successfully demonstrated that the star
prosecution witness had lied on the stand at trial and that
the state had withheld exculpatory evidence. The conviction
was overturned by the Alabama Court of Appeals and after
6 years on death row, Walter McMillian was a free man.
Stevenson's empathy for his client is on display as he describes
the numerous jailhouse interviews and meetings with
McMillian's family. The legal acumen Stevenson possesses is
without question, but his success is driven in equal measure
by the amount of time and care he takes in getting to know
his clients, their families, and the community. Such an
empathetic approach should be the practice of every attorney.

Fighting for Due Process and Equal Protection
throughout the South
Stevenson, a Harvard law graduate, moved to Atlanta
to begin his career with the Southern Center for Human
Rights in 1985. He came to direct the organization's work on
death penalty defense in Alabama. In the 1980s, Alabama,
like other states in the deep South, had no public defender
system and a long list of unrepresented people facing
execution following convictions. In 1989, Stevenson moved
to Montgomery, Alabama full time and created the Equal
Justice Initiative in an effort to tackle the problem. Initially,
he aimed to provide representation to all people in Alabama
on death row. This work expanded to advocating for an
improved indigent defense system, addressing racial bias in
jury selection, and the defense of individuals suffering from
mental health disabilities.
Continued on page 34

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Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2018

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2018

Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2018 - 1
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2018 - 2
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2018 - 3
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2018 - 4
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