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'Hurst welcomes social justice activist Bryan Stevenson

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who is widely acclaimed for fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, speaks at Mercyhurst University on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center. His talk, which is titled “Just Mercy” after his New York Times bestseller of the same name, is an offering of the Charlene M. Tanner Speakers Series. It is free and open to the public, although tickets are required.

As founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a non-profit group dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions, Stevenson has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults.

Stevenson has successfully argued several cases in the United States Supreme Court and recently won an historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional. Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for over 115 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. He has also initiated major new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts that challenge the legacy of racial inequality in America, including major projects to educate communities about slavery, lynching and racial segregation.

Stevenson is professor of law at New York University School of Law, and has received 16 honorary degrees, including degrees from Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University and Washington University. His critically acclaimed bestseller, Just Mercy, was named by Time Magazine as one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014 and has been awarded several honors including a 2015 NAACP Image Award.

His work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system has won him numerous awards including the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize, the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union after he was nominated by United States Supreme Court Justice John Stevens, the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers, and the Olaf Palme Prize in Stockholm, Sweden for international human rights.

The American Bar Association has honored Stevenson with its John Minor Public Service and Professionalism Award. He is also a recipient of the Award for Courageous Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Lawyer for the People Award from the National Lawyers Guild. He is the recipient of numerous other awards, including the Smithsonian Magazine American Ingenuity Award in Social Progress.

Stevenson’s Mercyhurst visit is being gifted in memory of Charlene M. Tanner by her loving partner Doris Cipolla. Because of their shared interest in social justice, peace and the environment, it is hoped that this program will inspire others to help create a healing environment for the world.

Tickets for the talk become available to members of the Mercyhurst community on Aug. 31 at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center Box Office, and to members of the general public on Sept. 6. Tickets are expected to go quickly. For more information, please call the box office at 824-3000.

(Photo by Nina Subin)