Just Mercy (2019) Movie Script

All right, let's chop and load!
Good evening now, Officer.
Y'all need my license
or anything I got?
No, that's not necessary.
Some sharp-looking truck you got.
Thank you.
Those rims look like
they cost you a pretty penny.
Who you've been working for?
No, sir. I don't work for nobody.
I got my own pulpin' business.
I clear all these trees around here.
So ain't got no boss
to check in with, huh?
That must be pretty nice.
Free to roam up down the road
wherever you want to,
whenever you want to in this fancy truck?
Not if my wife got somethin'
to say about it.
I heard that ain't stopped you
before though.
Ain't that right, Johnny D?
You wanna make a break for it?
No, sir, I don't wanna do--
'Cause after what you've done,
I'm looking for any excuse
to get this over with
right here right now.
Sir, I ain't did nothing,
and I think y'all got a wrong person in.
Y'all got me confused
with somebody, and I think--
I got you confused with nobody!
I don't have anything
to do with this!
We all know Monroeville
as the peaceful town
where Harper Lee
wrote To Kill A Mockingbird.
But last year, that peace
was shattered by a brutal crime.
On the 1st of November,
18-year-old Ronda Morrison
was found dead at Jackson Cleaners.
Morrison had been strangled
and shot by Walter McMillian,
known locally as 'Johnny D.'
McMillian was convicted by a jury
who recommended a life sentence.
But today, Judge Robert E. Lee Key
overrode their decision
and sentenced McMillian to death.
We promised the community
that we would find him, and we did.
You commit a crime like this in my town,
one way or another, you gonna pay for it.
As McMillian awaits execution
at Holman Correctional Facility,
a grieving community can take
some solace in knowing that today,
justice has finally been served.
Thank you.
You got one hour.
Hi, Mr. Davis. I'm Bryan.
The Southern Prisoners Defense Committee,
they sent me here to tell you that
they don't have a lawyer for you yet,
but they hope to soon.
You not a lawyer?
No... I'm still in school.
Just interning here for the summer.
So, you can't tell me nothin'
about my case?
I was supposed to tell you that...
That you're not at risk of execution
any time within the next year.
Can you say that again?
That you're not at risk of execution
any time within the next year.
That's the best news
that I've heard in a long time.
I didn't want my wife with kids
showin' up if I had
an execution date comin'.
Now they can come visit.
Thank you. Thank you.
Serious, my ma made me join
our church choir when I was like four.
I sang lead baritone
all through high school.
I played piano at my church growing up.
A.M.E.? God is good...
All the time. All the time.
A couple of A.M.E. choirboys
hangin' on death row.
- My mom would gonna trip.
- Man, that's crazy.
What school are you going to?
I'm at Harvard.
Seriously? You goin' to Harvard?
That's white-boy-status, bro.
What the hell you doin'
slummin' it in here for?
I'm in law school
'cause I just want to help people.
Just haven't figure out
the best way to do that yet.
Honestly, this internship
has been the best experience so far.
Workin' on death row
has been your best experience?
You need to get out more, bro.
You should've been done
two hours ago.
I'm sorry. I didn't realize--
You're supposed to watch the clock.
Sir, calm down!
He didn't do anything!
- You need to shut your mouth!
- It's okay, Bryan.
Don't worry about me.
You just come back.
I'm pressing on, the upward way
New heights I'm gaining, every day
Still praying as,
I'm onward bound
Lord, plant my feet
on higher ground
Mom's still mad at you.
For what?
I don't know, maybe for rejecting
all those job offers
so you can be poor in Alabama.
And Howie telling her about
that lynching in Mobile didn't help.
- I said it happened seven years ago.
- Yeah, that made it better.
You two were supposed
to be on my side.
Pop, how we looking up there?
Just added three quarts of water,
but you should check again
when you get there.
All right. Thanks.
You talk to your mom yet?
What did those leaves do to you?
You not gonna say bye to your son?
I know you got your law degree now,
and you think you're grown,
but you're still my child.
And I'm the one that has to deal
with your funeral arrangements
if you get killed down there.
- Come on, Mom--
- You think this is funny?
'Cause if you can't see the danger
in what you're doing,
you need to ask Harvard
for your money back.
You used to be smarter than that.
The first time I visited death row,
I wasn't expecting to meet
somebody the same age as me.
Grew up on the same music,
from a neighborhood just like ours.
It could've been me, mama.
I don't wanna move far away
from you. I love you.
But you always taught me to fight
for the people who need the help the most.
I am very proud of you, son.
I know your heart's
in the right place.
But it's not that simple.
What you're doing is gonna make
a lot of people upset.
You better be careful.
I will.
I promise.
Here she comes.
You gotta be kiddin' me!
We had an agreement
to rent this space for two years.
You said it was a done deal.
That was before I knew
what you were doing here.
We are giving poor people
their constitutional right to counsel, Bill!
Do you mind explaining to my son
what you think is so wrong with that?
- Eva, what's up?
- Bryan, thank God.
This is the Executive Director
of our organization.
He just got here, he was expecting
to move into the office
that you promised us.
You said you were the director.
Director of operations.
And you're making me look very bad
in front of my boss right now.
She said you were a lawyer, but nobody
told me it was for murderers on death row.
We're providing legal services
to people who need help.
And you'll have to do it someplace else,
'cause I can't have people
like that around here.
Not everyone is in there
for a good reason, sir.
Y'all have a good day now.
What a piece of shit.
I'm so sorry, this is not
how I wanted to welcome you here.
I will find us an office, I promise you I will.
I just gotta change my tactics.
It'll be fine, we can work from anywhere.
Yeah, we'll just have Chris clean up
his toys in the living room, right Chris?
- Oh, yeah?
- I'll think about it.
- I'm sorry for cussing, baby.
- It's okay.
He was a piece of shit, though.
I was a psychology major
writing a paper on capital punishment
when I met my first
death row inmate, Wayne Ritter.
He and his friend robbed
a pawnshop in Mobile.
His friend shot the owner
and they both got death.
Is he the reason
why you got into this?
His attorney was openly in favor
of the death penalty.
He thought mad dogs ought to die.
A lot of folks on the row either had
shitty representation or none at all.
So, I just started calling every law firm
in the Yellow Pages,
just trying to find anybody
that could help.
I was averaging 20 rejections a day.
She was pretty stressed out.
I was just about to give up,
when I got a call from a Harvard lawyer
saying that he had just passed
the Alabama Bar,
and had federal funding to start
a legal center for inmates on death row.
I was in before he even
offered me the job.
And before you knew
I couldn't pay you anything.
What's that?
Yeah, Dough doesn't know
about that part yet.
Sorry, honey.
How is going, son?
You seem tired.
Okay, let's go brush your teeth.
Excuse us.
I'll make up the couch for you, Bryan.
I'm excited about what you're doing.
Me too.
I should be in the log.
I'm scheduled to see six clients today.
I ain't seen you before.
It's because I just moved here.
You really a lawyer?
Yes, I am.
Gonna have to search you.
Just go in that room there
and take everything off.
Attorneys aren't strip-searched
for legal visits.
You ain't gonna visit shit
unless you get in that room and strip.
Let's go.
Pants and underwear.
Bend over and spread.
You're clear.
I f-fought in Nam,
First Cavalry Division.
Saw a lot of f-friends die.
Doctor said I g-got the PTSD.
I did what they s-s-said I did.
I put the bomb on her porch.
I know it d-don't make sense,
but I didn't mean to kill nobody.
I think they gonna s-s-set
my execution soon.
Last lawyer said
there ain't nothin' left to do.
There's always something
that we can do.
Whatever you did,
your life is still meaningful.
And I'm gonna do everything possible
to keep them from taking it.
Tell me everything that happened.
I was given a court-appointed lawyer,
and he was pretty pitiful.
Never really talked to me
about setting up a defense.
I probably met a dude for 30 times.
He told me that it would be
in my best interest
to plead no contest
to all of those charges.
I plead not guilty, I said I didn't do it,
I didn't have nothing to do with that.
You're 20 right now, if you take this plea
and you do the whole time
you'll only be 45 when you get out.
In the middle of my trial,
which only lasted 25 minutes till I out,
which is unheard-of.
He wouldn't let me take the stand,
So, I ended up firing him
and deal with it.
The judge laughed at me and said
rehabilitation was a 70-year-old joke.
My lawyer... He was there,
but he wasn't there.
It was like I was by myself.
Last lawyer I had sat
where you sit and say...
Johnny D, don't worry about nothin',
everything it will be aight.
Then, they put
that death sentence on me.
Family run out of money.
Money run out, he run out.
What you gonna do different?
The first thing we can do
is apply for a re-trial--
Already did that, they denied.
It's right there in your file, so...
Okay, then we can ask
for a reconsideration on that.
Then, a direct appeal
to the Court of Criminal Appeals,
and work our way up
to the State Supreme Court.
If we get denied there,
we can file a Rule 32.
Then, a federal habeas petition.
And if all that fails, Mr. McMillian,
we can take your case all the way
to the Supreme Court.
You don't know what you're into
down here, don't you?
You think all those fancy words is gonna
get you somewhere 'round here in Alabama?
All they gonna do is eat you alive
and spit you out
just like every other black man they do
when he stepped outta line.
You come out in here
with them fancy suits.
Talking like a white. These people
don't give a damn about that.
The only suit they wanna see
a nigga in is the suit I got on.
Mr. McMillian, I can see
how that be hard--
No, you don't!
No, you don't. No, you don't.
You're rich boy from Harvard,
you don't what it is down here.
When you guilty
from the moment you born.
And you can buddy up with these
white folks, and make them laugh,
and try to make them like you,
whatever that is,
and you say "yes, sir", "no, ma'am",
but when it's your turn,
they ain't gotta have no fingerprints,
no evidence,
and the only witness they got
made the whole thing up.
And none of that matter
when all y'all think is
is that I look like a man
who could kill somebody.
But that's not what I think.
You know how many people
been freed from Alabama death row?
What make you think
you gonna change that?
I ain't doin' this shit again.
- Guard!
- Mr. McMillian.
We're done here.
Mr. McMillian, please!
I'm here to help.
What's up Johnny D.
Johnny D.
Johnny D, you there?
'Sup, Herb?
Ray there?
Unavailable at the moment.
Where you at?
Buckingham Palace.
I'm having tea with the Queen.
She's a very nice lady.
I'll let you know when we done.
Johnny D, what did you think
of the lawyer?
I think he a kid, doesn't know
what he telling about.
Makin' all of these promises
he ain't gonna be able to keep.
I thought he was nice.
What the hell you wanna
nice lawyer for?
Nice ain't gonna get you shit!
Look at Johnny D.
Nice as a puppy,
yet he in here with us.
I didn't know you thought
about me like that, Ray.
You nice and everything.
You're not as nice as La Toya Jackson,
but for old man
on the row, you aight.
I thought you said
I was the old man.
Johnny D is old, Herb,
you more ancient.
Sorry to tell you.
Herb, turn that music up.
You got it.
Bryan, did you get any sleep?
I don't think McMillian did it.
The State based its entire case
on a testimony of one man.
Ralph Myers.
Myers spent most of his life
in and out of prison.
When he testified, he was on trial
for a different murder,
which he ended up
getting 30 years for.
Seems like a pretty good deal.
In his statement, he said that Johnny D
approached him at a car wash
and forced him at gunpoint to drive
to Jackson Cleaners because his arm hurt.
That sounds logical.
When they get there, Johnny D tells him
to wait in the truck while he goes inside.
And while he's waiting for his kidnapper,
he doesn't run,
he doesn't go to the police,
instead he drives to the liquor store
for cigarettes,
and then comes back
to the crime scene.
Excuse me?
Myers hears a gunshot, goes inside,
and sees the body of Ronda Morrison
lying on the ground face-up
and Johnny D standing
over her with the gun
with some older white guy
who he claimed 'was in charge.'
- Anyone tryna look for him?
- Exactly.
They have one other witness
to back his testimony,
a young black man named Bill Hooks.
Says he saw Johnny D's lowrider truck
leaving the cleaners
around the time of the murder.
And that's it. That's all they have.
So, an 18-year-old white girl
is murdered in broad daylight,
and the Sheriff can't solve
the crime for how long?
Almost a year.
And then some other guy
who's charged with a different murder
says that he can tell them who did it
if he gets a lower sentence.
And the guy that he says did it,
happens to be
a black man from a poor community
that no one would think twice about?
There's gotta be more evidence than this.
I wanna set a meeting with the D.A.
Tommy Chapman just took over
for Pearson a few months ago.
He used to be a public defender.
Maybe he's not aligned
with the rest of them.
You visit the Mockingbird Museum yet?
No, ma'am.
It's the old courthouse
Harper Lee's daddy used to work in.
You can stand right
where Atticus Finch once stood.
Mr. Stevenson? I'm Tommy Chapman.
- Hey.
- You found us okay?
- I did.
- Good, follow me.
Thank you, Tracy.
A lot of people are very keen
to meet you, Mr. Stevenson.
Oh, really?
Yeah, you're a Harvard lawyer
who's moved to Alabama.
And now you start takin' on
all these capital cases.
People just wanna know
what your intentions are, I guess.
We're just tryna give legal assistance
to people who can't afford it.
The legal assistance is one thing,
but tryin' to put convicted murderers
back on the street is somethin' else entirely.
Anyway, you didn't come
all the way down here to talk about that.
What can I do for you today, Bryan?
I wanted to speak to you
about Johnny D. McMillian.
You know I wasn't part
of his prosecution, right?
That was way before my time.
And that's exactly
why I wanted to meet you.
You see, I've read through the record
quite a few times now,
and I have some serious doubts
about the reliability of his conviction.
If you could take a look
at the sections I highlighted here,
you'll see some problems
with Ralph Myers' testimony.
Man, this is one of the most outrageous
crimes in Monroe County history.
Your client made
a lot of people very angry.
I understand that, but there are
some serious problems with this case,
and I was hoping
that I could get your support
to figure out what really happened.
I already know what happened.
Johnny D. McMillian
was convicted by a jury
of brutally murdering
a teenage girl in my community.
Man, it is my job to defend
the integrity of that conviction.
Even if that conviction
is based on false testimony?
You're the only one I know
who thinks that.
Then I must be the only one
who read that record,
because it's pretty obvious.
That man caused a lot of pain,
a lot of pain for folks 'round here.
And if you go diggin' in those wounds,
you're gonna be makin'
a lot of people very unhappy.
Well, it isn't my job
to make people happy,
it's to achieve justice for my client.
Ralph Myers' two confessions,
and a statement from Bill Hooks.
I asked for copies of all
the police and witness statements.
And that's what you're holding.
This is a joke.
Where's the rest of it?
That's what's relevant
to McMillian's case.
If you want more, you'll have to file
a discovery motion with the court,
just like anybody else.
Thanks for coming by today,
Mr. Stevenson.
- Expect that motion soon.
- I'll look forward to it, Counselor.
You wanna check out
the Mockingbird Museum
on your way out of town.
It's one of the great
civil rights landmarks of the South.
Helping a black man convicted
of killing a white girl
is political suicide in that county.
I'm sure he's been reminded of that
by whoever got him his job.
The way he was talking...
I don't even think he read the record.
That doesn't surprise me.
Hey, Chris. Bobby.
- Come on in and get your snack.
- Okay.
I'm gonna stop by Jackson Cleaners
on my way to meet his family.
Okay. If I don't hear from you
by morning, I'll send a rescue party.
I hope that's a joke.
Me too.
You just be careful, okay?
You the lawyer?
Yes, ma'am.
My name is Bryan Stevenson.
I'm Johnny D's wife, Minnie.
Pleasure to meet you.
Thank you so much for drivin'
all the way out here.
Most lawyers barely make time to call.
This is our youngest son, John.
A baby girl, Jackie.
I hope you don't mind,
a few of our neighbors stopped by
to hear what you got to say.
Just a few?
- Come on, you'll be all right.
- Okay.
Hey, now! We ain't gonna get nowhere
with everybody quackin' at the same time!
Let Mr. Stevenson talk.
It's pleasure to meet... all of you.
Thank you.
Now I know you all have
a lot of questions.
But I really would love
to hear from you guys first,
just to get a better understanding
of your perspective on things.
Our perspective is there ain't no way
Johnny D did this crime.
The morning that girl was killed,
we was all havin' a fish fry here
to raise money for the church.
Johnny D was here, mornin' till night,
workin' on his truck with John.
You were with your dad that day?
Yeah, we was up at six in the morning
to put the truck on the rack.
Jimmy was there, too.
Yeah, we had that trendy
clean out by 9:30.
How he supposed to go kidnap
some crazy white man
all the way in Evergreen,
then drive back to Jackson Cleaners
to kill that girl at 10:15
if his truck ain't got no transmission?
How many of you-all
were with Walter that morning?
My husband could've never
done this, no kind of way,
whether we was with him or not.
He is just not like that.
Everybody know they went after him
'cause of that woman.
Sorry, Minnie.
It's okay.
It ain't no secret.
Few months before the murder,
Johnny D got caught
messin' around
with a white woman in town.
When her husband found out about it,
he made sure everybody knew.
People started talkin',
and the stories kept growin'.
He went from a cheat, to a drug dealer,
to head of the Dixie Mafia.
So, by the time somebody
called him a murderer,
ain't nobody thought twice about it.
They can call it what they want.
It's just another way
to lynch a black man.
There ain't no excuse for what
my husband did to me and his family.
Damn fool hurt me bad.
But he still the daddy of my kids.
And I really don't know
what I'm s'pose to tell them
about stayin' out of trouble
when you can be at your own house,
minding your own business,
surrounded by your entire family,
and they still go and put
some murder on you.
It's not just Dad.
We feel like they put
us all on death row, too.
I can only imagine the pain
that you're going through.
But I'm gonna do everything I can--
The last lawyers was talkin'
jus' as big as you,
then they took
all our money and split.
Why you different?
Our organization
will cover all legal fees.
So, none of you
will ever have to pay a penny.
It's clear to me that this trial
was constructed with lies.
And based off everything
that I've seen,
I think we could build a case
strong enough to bring Johnny D home.
And I'm not gonna stop
until I've done that.
Well, you seem like good people to me,
but Johnny D is the one
you gonna have to convince.
I don't know about the rest of y'all,
but I was sold on
"y'all won't pay a penny."
Mr. Stevenson?
Call me Bryan.
This is my friend, Darnell.
He has something
he wants to talk to you about.
Come on.
I think I can prove he's innocent.
You heard of Bill Hooks, right?
He testified that he saw Johnny D's truck
at the cleaners that morning.
Bill didn't see shit.
He made the whole thing up.
How do you know that?
'Cause I was with him.
We was workin' at the shop together.
The morning of the murder?
Yes, sir, we was fixing
the head gasket on a Camaro
from eight in the morning
till right after we closed at lunch.
He was right next to me
when them sirens was goin' off.
Why would he lie?
'Cause the snitch
cut a deal with the cops.
They had 'im locked up for burglary,
and the day he gave his statement,
he walked out free,
all charges dropped.
We told one of the other lawyers
and they do nothing about it.
Would you be willing to sign
a statement we could use in court?
Police would see my name?
It would be on the record.
Darnell, exposing yourself
like this is not easy.
But with your testimony we can file
a motion to reopen Johnny D's case.
Darnell, we need you.
Okay, I...
All right.
- Good morning
- Good morning.
Thanks for seeing me again.
I know the last time we met
things didn't go quite the way I--
I just can't believe
you met my family.
Drove down that dirt road,
crammed up in that little house,
talked to all of my people,
to say you gonna try to fight for me.
That mean a lot.
It meant a lot to me, too.
Minnie wanted me
to give this to you.
And if you don't mind,
I have something I wanna show you.
It's a statement from Darnell Houston
saying that he was with Bill Hooks
three miles away
at the time of the murder.
So, there's no way
he could've seen your truck there.
That's good, right?
It's very good.
I'm gonna submit this
with a motion for a new trial.
I know you talked to Minnie,
she told you what I did to her...
I got no excuse for cheatin' on a woman.
'Cause I ain't good as she been to me.
I don't know why she standin' by me.
She's standing by you because
she knows you shouldn't be in here.
And so do I.
I know you didn't kill Ronda Morrison.
And I can help you prove that
in court, if you'll let me.
You met my whole family,
you know everythin' about 'em.
I don't know nothin' 'bout you though.
- What would you like to know?
- I wanna know it all, like why you...
Why you doin' this?
- Why am I a lawyer?
- No, no...
Why is you a lawyer
down here in Alabama,
taking these cases that ain't nobody
gonna pay you for?
I grew up down a road
just like yours,
playing soccer in a dirt field,
with the pigs and chickens...
Used to pump sewage from my yard.
When I was a teenager,
my grandfather was murdered
over a black-and-white TV.
We kept waiting for someone
to show up to help,
they never did.
And that's when I realized that
outside of my community nobody cared,
because to them, he's just
another black man killed in the projects.
I know what it's like
to be in the shadows.
That's why I'm doing this.
That's a pretty good reason.
Let's get to work.
Yo, Johnny D.
You signin' up with that lawyer?
I'm gonna give him a try.
Seems like everybody on the row
workin' with him now.
I'm starting to feel left out.
Is he really that good?
I hope so.
What you think, Herbert?
Should I just dump my guy
and make the switch-over?
Herb, you hear me? You there?
I'm here.
Herb, you okay?
They s-set my d-date.
Herb, don't you worry about nothin' that,
everything gonna be aight, okay?
Ain't nothing over yet.
You got Bryan working for you now.
I-I ain't like you guys.
I d-d-deserve what's comin'.
There, you go talkin' out your ass.
You fought for this country,
and they do you in the bag,
like a trash...
That war made you sick
in your head, man.
You supposed to be in a hospital.
Not here.
When I told the cops
that stopped me I was innocent,
do you know what they say?
One of you niggers did it,
and if it weren't you,
you take your one for your homie.
Johnny D's prosecutor say
he know he killed the girl
because of the way
he looked in his mug shot.
You don't deserve this shit
more than any of us, Herb.
A girl is dead because of me.
That don't give nobody
the right to kill you back.
Herbert was 18
when he went to Vietnam.
He was the only survivor in an ambush
that killed his whole platoon.
After that, he had a mental breakdown,
attempted suicide,
and was sent home
on an honorable discharge.
Back at home he continued
to suffer from nightmares, crying fits,
running out of his house
screaming 'incoming' to his neighbors.
His lawyer didn't even mention
military service
or mental trauma to the jury.
A few months after the trial,
he was disbarred for misconduct.
Of course, he was.
Okay, what can we do?
Since he's already been
through the appeals process,
the statutes of limitations are gonna
make it hard for a judge to listen.
We will have to try and make them.
I can start on a motion tonight.
- Hello?
- Okay.
It's for you, Mom.
Thank you, sweetie.
You the bitch workin'
for that nigger lawyer?
Who the hell is this?
The guy who put the bomb under your house
that's gonna blow your family all to hell.
if you don't stop workin'
for that nigger Johnny D.
Everybody out of the house!
- What's going on?
- I'll tell you outside.
They didn't find anything.
Are they sure?
- Did they check the basement.
- They said they checked the basement.
Okay, baby. Let's get you to bed.
When you asked me
to do this thing with you,
I knew that I'd lose some friends,
have people talkin' shit
behind my back, or to my face.
I don't need people to like me
as long as I'm doin'
what I'm supposed to do.
But threatenin' my family...
Eva, you know I'd never blame you
if you needed to stop.
I don't want my son growing up knowing
that his mom stopped doing what was right
just because she was scared
of some crazy bigot.
What are we gonna do about McMillian?
We start the investigation from scratch.
Find anyone in town
who's willing to talk.
Maybe people will stop tryna kill us
once they realize how charming we are.
I just wanted to ask you
a couple of questions
about the Ronda Morrison murder.
It's just...
You were on the witness list
for the Ronda Morrison trial a few years back--
Sorry, can't help you with that.
Is there anything--
Anything at all that you feel
comfortable talking to me about--
If you are not workin'
for that poor girl's family,
then I ain't got nothin'
to say to you. Sorry, sweetie.
Officer Ikner?
Ain't no officer no more.
I'm a lawyer representing
Johnny D. McMillian,
I understand you were
the first officer on the scene?
I was right! The fish fry was on Saturday,
November 1st, same day as the murder.
They put these up all over town.
I could kiss you, Deb.
We're planning to grow this into something
the whole country will be talkin' about,
and you can say that
it all started in your building.
What exactly kind of work do you do?
We're just helping people.
- Looks good.
- It's perfect.
My client, Herbert Richardson,
was recommended for a Medal of Valor
for disarming a bomb in Vietnam.
We got a tip that a few
of your employees can back his alibi.
Vivian Clark was one of the teenagers
who were sexually abused at your facility.
No, I'm not an attorney,
but I promise you,
your son is in very good hands.
Equal Justice Initiative, this is Brenda.
Okay... Yes... Just one moment.
Darnell Houston.
Hello, Darnell.
Whoa, whoa, slow down.
Where are you?
- Are you okay?
- No, sir. I'm not.
Okay, Darnell, let's go talk in my car.
How in the hell
they lockin' me up for perjury
if alls I did was say the truth?
I knew I shouldn't a signed
that paper, man.
Shouldn't a listened to you.
What they did to you
was completely illegal.
I'm gonna talk to the D.A.
and get all of these charges dismissed.
- This will never happen again.
- How the hell do you know?
You can't control these guys.
They arrested me in the middle
of my shift, in front of my boss.
I don't even know
if I got a job tomorrow.
I feel bad for what
they doin' to Johnny D,
but I'm just tryin' to survive.
I can't fight these guys, man.
You gonna have to find somebody else.
Darnell, think about Johnny D, okay?
Think about his family.
They need you.
Give me some time to work on this.
That's my ride.
Tell Johnny D I'm sorry.
I need to speak with you!
Hey, Bryan.
Have you met Sheriff Tate?
Who ordered the arrest of my witness?
If people make false statements
concerning this case,
they're gonna be held accountable.
You can't arrest someone
for perjury without evidence
that a false statement has been made.
Hang on, you're representing
Mr. Houston now, too?
Yes, I am. His statement contradicts
Bill Hooks' entire testimony.
Hooks isn't the state's main witness,
Ralph Myers is.
Alabama code 12-21-222 requires
corroboration of accomplice testimony,
so, without Hooks,
the conviction wouldn't be valid.
I went down to see
Ronda Morrison's mama yesterday.
She's in tears, she kept asking me
why some lawyer from up north
would come down here and make them
relive all this hell again.
You can tell her it's because
Johnny D didn't kill her daughter.
And whoever did
is still out there somewhere.
I know how desperate you must be
to fulfill your fantasy
of who we are down here.
Just a bunch of corrupt Southern racists
framin' niggers for murder.
And you here to save the day.
Hell, you can believe
in that if you want to.
But I know that Johnny D killed that girl,
he's gonna answer for it.
How do you know that?
You have no hard evidence.
You based your entire case
on the word of an indicted felon
who had every incentive
to tell you what you wanted to hear.
- Ralph Myers testified on his own accord!
- And it made no sense!
He couldn't finish a sentence
without contradicting himself.
The charges against Darnell Houston
are baseless.
They'll never stand up in court.
They should be dropped immediately.
- Is that okay with you, Tommy?
- Sure.
It doesn't really matter.
Now that court denied your motion
to reopen the case.
What was that?
You didn't get the order?
The judge is down in Mobile now.
Sometimes they have mail issues.
You can tell Mr. Houston the charges
against him are being dropped.
I can do that much for y'all,
but anything else
will have to be raised on appeal.
Thanks for stoppin' by, Counselor.
- Something wrong, Officer?
- Step out of the vehicle.
I don't understand. I wasn't speeding.
I said step out of the vehicle.
I'll get out of the car, but first,
can you tell me why you stopped me?
Get out of the goddamn car!
Okay. Okay.
Come on!
- I'm taking off me seat belt.
- Come on!
I'm opening up the door.
I'm stepping out.
Faster! Come on!
- I have nothing in my hands.
- Turn around!
Hands on the car!
You don't have to have a gun
pointed at me. I'm not a threat.
Shut your damn mouth, boy!
Hey, brother.
You oughta be careful with your words
when you got a gun at your head.
Let's go, Joe.
Why did you stop me?
We're letting you go.
You should be happy.
Even if they drop them charges,
Darnell ain't gonna testify
after what they have done to him.
I know we took a big hit. We did.
But we just need to gather
more evidence for another motion.
They will block it.
If they can put me on the row
for a year without no trial,
they can do whatever the they wanna do.
They put you on death row
before your trial?
Sheriff drove me hisself.
Said, I'm gonna give you a little taste
of what it's like, unless you confess.
- Why are you just now telling me this?
- This is how it is down here.
Been like that as long
as I can remember.
They're messing with you, ain't they?
They're not making it easy on me.
I got a plan for you though.
I'm all ears.
This is what I think we should do.
I think you should train up another lawyer,
'cause I'm gonna need somebody
just in case they take you out.
It's like that?
Like that. It's like that.
- I thought I had a friend.
- Ain't no friends in here.
- Cold world.
- Yeah.
So, if we ain't got Darnell,
what's the next move?
I think we should talk to Ralph Myers.
- Walter.
- No.
Just listen to me for a second.
I know it's risky,
but the only way to find out
what he really knows
is for me to get him talking.
I know what he know.
You know what that man did to me?
Took my life away from me,
to save his own ass.
All he gonna give you is lies.
I promise. I'm gonna be careful.
Mr. Myers.
You Bobby?
I'm Bryan.
Maybe later.
Okay. Do you wanna sit down?
You gonna buy me a Coke first?
Or you gonna make me stare
at them vending machines all day?
Sure. What do you want?
- Sunkist Orange.
- Okay.
And some Jujyfruits
if they got 'em!
I just wanna say thanks
for meeting me, Mr. Myers.
Can we start by talking about
your testimony against Johnny D?
I ain't talkin' about him.
That's the only reason why I'm here.
You don't like it, leave.
Don't look so sad, we can talk
about other things. I love to talk.
My wife says if I got paid
for every word I said,
we'd be a couple a billionaires by now.
Oh, yeah?
How long you been married?
Long enough to pop out a couple a' kids
and watch her turn 'em all against me.
- You got kids?
- Me? No.
But Johnny D does.
The thing about kids is,
they ain't nothin' like havin' a dog.
It's a totally different deal. I wish
somebody told me that in the first place
My kids, they think they got it so bad,
they ain't seen nothin' like I seen.
Try makin' it as a foster kid
your whole life,
soon as you figure out one shitty parent,
they movin' you to a new one.
I'm sorry.
I'm sure that wasn't easy.
How many kids he got?
Johnny D has three.
Mr. Myers, I know you made a deal
with the State,
but I don't think they told you
Johnny D was gonna die because of it.
That must not be
an easy thing to carry.
And I'm hoping there's a part of you
that wants to make things right.
Can we please talk
about your testimony?
From the day they moved
my ass up in Escambia,
for something I'm tellin' you
I ain't had nothing to do with,
all them police wanna talk about
was Ronda Morrison.
It was Morrison this, Morrison that.
Sometime four or five of 'em
in the room at the same time.
They were questioning you
about her the day you were arrested?
Alls I'm sayin' is,
ain't nobody cared about a damn thing
besides who killed that girl.
And when people care about
a thing that much,
they'll do anything
to get what they want.
You know they'll kill you
if you get to the bottom of this, right?
- Where are you going?
- We done here, Bobby.
Thanks for the Jujies.
Ready, boss!
Myers said he was questioned
about Ronda Morrison
the day he was arrested
on June 3rd.
But the only statement
they presented in court
was recorded almost two months later.
Do you think they're hiding
his first statement somewhere?
If they are, it might be
at the Escambia Courthouse
with the files from his other case.
You know anyone over there?
I do.
That's everything we got on Myers.
You can make copies over there.
- Thank you, ma'am.
- Sure, baby.
He's cute. Married?
Married to his work.
How's Uncle Mickey doin'?
He's buildin' another shed,
'cause the other two apparently
ain't enough.
Man's needs a project.
Ms. Miller.
Can I take a copy of these?
They ain't payin' me enough
to stop you.
Did you find the transcript
for Myers' first statement?
Thank you.
- I understand that, Sheriff...
- That's Myers.
That's what I'm trying to tell you,
because I'm gonna be honest with you,
I don't know a damn thing.
- Is that right?
- That's Tate.
Yes, sir, it's righter
than anything I've ever said.
And you would take
a polygraph test to the fact
that you do not know
who killed Ronda Morrison.
That's right, sir, I will.
Would face the person
who came in here to testify--
I will face any damn body in this world
on that, because it's a stone lie.
And if you askin' me
to frame an innocent man for murder,
that just ain't somethin'
I'm willin' to do.
Holy shit.
Herb, you aight over there?
You gotta get to have
your mind off tomorrow.
Bryan is working on that as we speak.
You know how these courts is,
the wait till the last minute.
But you gonna get that stay.
- Why d-did I make that bomb?
- Herb, don't go there, man.
Why did I do that?
I wasn't tryin' to hurt nobody.
Herb, I know.
Why am I s-so s-stupid?
You ain't stupid.
That war got you sick,
and you still sick.
Girl wasn't s-s-posed
to come by and pick it up.
She w-wasn't s'posed to come by.
That's what we gonna do, Herb,
we gonna slow your mind down.
Remember what we practiced now.
What we do?
Deep breaths.
Come on, do that with me now.
Deep breaths.
In and out.
Now in.
Now close your eyes.
Get away from all of this.
No more walls, no more guards,
no more wars to fight.
Just you, out in the open.
Fresh air on your face...
Look at them pine trees.
They've been growin'
since before we was born,
and they gonna keep growin'
even after we gone.
And they have been through
the same shit we have been through,
but they still dancing in the breeze.
Can you see 'em?
Now I want you
to think about nothin' else,
just keep your mind on that.
Everythin' gonna be aight.
I need Strickland vs. Washington,
and the affidavit from Herbert's Sergeant.
Let's send it.
Now what?
We wait.
EJI, this is Bryan Stevenson.
Mr. Stevenson, the court has just entered
an order in case number 89-5395;
the motion for a stay of execution
and petition for writ of certiorari
have been denied.
We'll fax copies of the order
over to your office shortly.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.
He asked me to be there.
Okay. I'll drive you down.
Come on, Herbert. We gotta go.
Can I say b-bye to my friends?
When it get too much for you,
you take them deep breaths
and let your mind go.
Wish I didn't have to d-do this alone.
You ain't by yourself, Herbert.
We all with you.
Ain't that right, Ray?
That's right, Herb.
You ain't rid of us yet.
You've been a good friend.
First time in the chamber, huh?
Don't think too much,
or you'll lose your shit.
You need anything, Mr. Richardson?
You still gonna play my song?
We got it cued up and ready.
Thank you.
It's been a strange day.
More p-people ask how they can help me
today than ever asked in my whole life.
Do I look funny?
I ain't know they was gonna
s-s-shave off everything.
You look fine.
Most people d-don't get to sit
and think all day about
it being their last day alive.
It's different than Nam.
At least I had a chance there.
I'm sorry.
You're the only one
c-cared enough to fight for me.
Since I don't have family
I t-told the Army to send
my flag to you, if that's okay.
I'd be honored.
Can you pray with me?
Of course.
They're ready.
You, Herbert Lee Richardson,
shall be put to death by electrocution
in the state of Alabama
as ordered and agreed by judge, jury--
for the murder of Rena Mae Callins
on August 16th, 1977.
Mr. Richardson, do you have
any final words you'd like to say?
I have no ill feeling,
and I hold nothing against anyone.
We with you, Herb!
We all with you!
We love you, Herb!
We love you, Herb!
I hope this important news of yours comes
with some food, 'cause I'm starvin'.
Sit down, Mr. Myers.
You was a lot nicer the last time.
I heard the recording of the first
statement you gave on June 3rd.
The one they didn't present in court.
You told the Sheriff you didn't know
anything about Johnny D or the murder.
You told him you didn't wanna
frame an innocent man.
Do you remember saying that?
What I'm wondering, is how do you go
from knowing nothing
about the murder on June 3rd,
to becoming the State's
key witness three months later?
What changed your mind?
What's that?
Intake log from Holman Prison.
On August 1, 1987, Sheriff Tate
transferred two inmates
from county jail to death row.
Johnny D...
and you.
Did they move you to death row
because you wouldn't testify against him?
They executed Wayne Ritter a few weeks
after you got there. Isn't that right?
I was in the witness room when they killed
Herbert Richardson Thursday night.
It was the most horrific thing
I've ever experienced.
I'm sure Ritter's execution
wasn't easy for you, either.
They put me in the cell
closest to the kill room.
Middle of the night, everybody
started screamin', bangin' on the bars.
And then...
Then come the smell of his skin burnin'.
I know that smell.
May I ask you what happened?
Seven years old.
I was sleepin' in my foster mom's basement
when her heater blowed up,
catched my PJs on fire.
I screamed for two minutes straight
before they found me.
Everybody knowed that I got a fear
of bein' burned.
They knowed what it would do
to my head to be in a place like that.
I couldn't stop shaking all night.
Curled up on the floor like a baby,
tryin' to breathe,
but every breath you take just...
give you another taste
of the man they killed.
You can't go through somethin' like that
and come out the same.
I know.
I called that Sheriff
the next morning, I told him...
I would say whatever
he wanted to get me out.
He took my statement.
Moved me to county the next day.
Mr. Myers, we're going to court very soon
to try to get Johnny D
the retrial he deserves.
And I'd like you to take the stand.
No, sir. No, sir.
They're using you...
They're using you to condemn a man
that you have much more
in common with than you think.
And if there's any part of you
that wants to make things right,
this is the last chance you gonna get.
The tension is high this morning here
at the Baldwin County Courthouse,
where a hearing is being held to see
if the man convicted of killing
Ronda Morrison deserves a new trial.
Miss Morrison was only 18 years old
when she was murdered at
Jackson Cleaners in Monroeville, Alabama.
Many have taken the two-hour drive here
from Monroeville to show their support.
Extra security precautions
were implemented
due to the highly emotional nature
of this case.
Ronda Morrison's parents said
they have no doubt
Mr. McMillian is the man responsible
for the murder of their daughter.
But members of McMillian's family
claim they have the wrong man.
Much of today's hearing is hinging
on the testimony of Ralph Myers,
a convicted felon, who was
the key witness against McMillian
in the original trial.
What we'll be talking about today
is obviously an emotional issue.
And if any of y'all
don't think you can maintain
a reasonable degree of decorum,
then I would ask you to leave now.
All right, if we are ready,
then, we will proceed.
Mr. Stevenson?
Thank you, Your Honor.
The State's case
against Walter McMillian
turned entirely on the testimony
of Ralph Myers.
It was no other evidence
to establish Mr. McMillian's guilt.
No physical evidence linking him
to the crime, no motive, no witnesses.
Only the word of one man.
We call Ralph Myers to the stand.
Sir, please stand and place
your right hand on the Bible.
Do you swear to tell the truth,
the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth,
so help you God?
Mr. Myers?
Oh, yes. Sorry.
Guards got me up at about
two in the morning to get me out here.
Mr. Myers, did you testify against
Walter McMillian in August of 1988?
Is that when that was?
According to the record, yes.
Okay, then. Sure, if you say so.
And what did you say to the jury
when you testified?
Don't think I can fully remember, sir,
to be honest with you. Sorry.
That's quite all right.
I have a transcript
of your testimony right here.
At the trial, do you remember
testifying that you were unwillingly
made part of a capital murder
and robbery on November 1, 1986,
when Walter McMillian
saw you at a car wash
and asked you to drive his truck
because his arm hurt?
Yes, sir. I guess so.
Do you remember saying that you drove
Mr. McMillian to Jackson Cleaners,
subsequently went into the building,
and saw McMillian with a gun,
standing over the body of Ronda Morrison?
Yes, sir.
Mr. Myers, was the testimony that you
gave at Walter McMillian's trial true?
I don't know.
You don't know?
I don't think I remember.
Mr. Myers.
Do you know who Walter McMillian is?
Yes, sir.
Is he in this room?
Yes, sir.
Could you point him out for us?
I'd like to ask you that question
one more time.
Was the testimony that you gave
at Walter McMillian's trial true?
No, sir, not at all.
Order, please!
Did you see Mr. McMillian on the day
Ronda Morrison was murdered?
No, sir.
Did you drive his truck
to Monroeville that day?
No. Never did.
Did you go into Jackson Cleaners
and see Mr. McMillian
standing over the body of Ronda Morrison?
Absolutely not.
Thank you.
No further questions, Your Honor.
Mr. Myers,
how do we know you ain't upset
with a deal you've got
and you feel like, something, how about,
a change in your story
might help to get you out?
Because that just
don't make no sense, sir.
Who do you think is decidin'
what happens to me?
If I live or die?
It ain't me. It ain't Johnny D.
It's all y'all that decidin' that.
So, how is me sayin' what I'm sayin'
gonna help to get me out?
If anything, it's gonna help
get me to death row.
But I don't care.
Y'all can do what you want with me.
'Cause me...
I can look in your face,
or anybody else's face,
dead eye to eyeball
and say that anything
I told about Mr. McMillian
was a lie.
He's here 'cause of me.
And I sure would appreciate you sending
him home to his kids where he belongs.
We submit a copy of the official
log from the police officer
who stopped by the fish fry,
confirming Walter McMillian
was there with his family.
Mr. Myers said that the body
was face-up near the front counter,
but I found her face-down
in the back by the bathroom.
Submitting exculpatory records
from Ralph Myers' stay
at Taylor Hardin Psychiatric Hospital,
which the State did not disclose
to defense counsel.
Mr. Myers was my patient at the time,
and he claimed on numerous occasions
that he was being threatened
with the electric chair
if he didn't say what
the authorities wanted to hear.
The prosecutor asked me to testify
that she had been drugged
from the front to the back,
and I told him
I ain't gonna lie in court.
And then, few weeks later,
I got fired from the department.
All the evidence presented today
would've been critical
to the outcome of this case,
and its exclusion is a clear violation
of Brady vs. Maryland,
and Mr. McMillian's constitutional rights.
The truth has not been told in this case.
And I understand
a lot of time has gone by,
but I personally believe
that it's never too late for justice.
We ask the court to grant our motion
and order a new trial for Mr. McMillian.
Thank you, Your Honor.
Thank you, Counselors.
We'll reconvene at a later date
once I've had time
to look through everything.
All rise!
Teddy shoes, I didn't think
he was gonna go through with it.
Honestly, for a second there,
I didn't think so, either.
I can't even tell you
how I feel right now.
Thank you.
We got a few minutes
if y'all wanna say hi.
We'll leave in five minutes.
What's up, old man?
- You did great.
- Thank you.
Chapman oughta call you
tonight and tell you
that he's dropping all the charges.
Yeah, I won't hold my breath.
Upon the reading of my decision,
I expect the rules of decorum
in this courtroom to be upheld.
Ralph Myers took the stand
before this court, swore to tell the truth,
and proceeded to recant most, if not all,
of the relevant portions
of his testimony at trial.
Clearly, he has either perjured himself
at trial or in front of this court.
After careful review,
it is this court's opinion
that conclusive evidence
has not been provided
that Ralph Myers perjured himself
at the original trial,
and that pressure put on him
since his trial testimony
could tend to discredit his recantation.
Therefore, it is ordered,
adjudged, and decreed
that the trial testimony of Ralph Myers
is not found to have been
perjured testimony,
and no new trial
shall be granted at this time.
Walter McMillian shall be returned
to Holman Correctional Facility
where he is to face death
by electrocution.
You can't do this to us again, Judge.
- Sit down, young man.
- That's my dad, sir.
- I want you sit down now.
- He ain't do nothin' wrong.
Listen to your father. Not here.
He ain't do nothin' wrong.
Sit down right now, or you'll be
arrested for contempt to court.
Judge, just give me one second,
please, Judge. Hold on. One second.
Sit down, John.
I won't say it again. Sit down!
Not if you gonna kill
my dad for no reason...
Not if you gonna kill
my dad for no reason!
He ain't do nothin' wrong!
You're killing my family, Sir!
You're killing my family, Sir! You!
Judge, he's not resisting!
Do not resist it.
Don't you let them get to you.
It's gonna be all right.
Come on, man,
don't make this hard.
Come on.
Don't do this, McMillian!
Let him go!
Let Johnny D go!
Relax! Relax!
- Give me your arms!
- Give me the cuffs.
Nobody wants to remember
that this is where thousands
of enslaved people were shipped in
and then paraded up the street to be sold.
Just ten miles from here, black people
were pulled from their homes and lynched.
Nobody talks about it.
And now this black boy from Delaware
walks into their courtrooms,
and expects them to admit
they convicted an innocent black man.
I promised that whole community
I was gonna bring him home.
And I just made things worse.
I've heard a lot of lawyers say
it's not a good idea
to get close to your clients.
Distance is healthy.
But working with you
showed me that that's bullshit.
You choose to get close
to every one of them,
and you love them
like they are your family.
And when your family
is hurting, you're hurting.
There is no way that I could
fully understand
what it is that you're going through.
But I am pretty sure that...
you mean a lot more to this community
than you think.
Walter, I'm so sorry.
The day I got arrested,
I thought I was gonna be okay.
'Cause I got the truth.
Soon as they talk to everybody that
was with me, they gonna have to let me go.
Then, the police keep callin' you a killer.
Some white dude
say he saw you do it.
News people sayin' you did it.
Judge and jury sayin' you did it.
Now you on the row...
Two, three, four years...
Your friends and your kids...
They ain't callin' you like they used to.
After a while, you start wondering
what they think about you.
You start wondering
what you think about you.
Truth ain't so clear no more.
But the last few days...
I can't stop thinkin'
'bout Myers up there
tellin' everybody how it went down.
That's the first time I feel like myself
since I've been locked up.
First time I remembered who I is.
These fools gonna do
what they gonna do.
But if they take me
to that chair tonight,
I'm going out smilin',
'cause I got my truth back.
You gave it to me.
To me and my family.
And ain't nobody
gonna take that from us.
You ain't quittin', is you?
No, sir!
Then there ain't no reason
for you to say you're sorry.
I know how disappointing
the last hearing was,
but that's not where this is gonna end.
We're preparing a motion
to submit our evidence
to the State Supreme Court in Montgomery.
They have the power
to reverse the last decision
and force the circuit court
to give us a new trial.
You think they'll do that?
Nothing's guaranteed.
But I can't see how an outside court
can ignore the evidence that we have.
And then what?
Even if he do get out there, everybody
but us still gonna think he guilty.
If they can't kill 'im in there,
they can still do it out here.
We've been worried about that, too,
and we're working on something
to help get the truth out.
We're rolling. Whenever
you're ready, Mr. Bradley.
Okay, Bryan, you ready?
I am.
His name is Walter McMillian,
known to his friends as Johnny D,
and he's been on death row
in Alabama's Holman Prison
for almost six years.
A jury was convinced
they got the right man.
But you may not be
after you watch this story.
Turn that up! I can't hear it.
Johnny D says they want
to execute the wrong man.
You didn't kill Ronda Morrison?
No, sir, I never seen Ronda Morrison
a day in my life. God knows I ain't.
Did you ever go into Monroeville
on the day of the murder?
No, sir.
You never went to--
Never went to Monroeville period.
I told them I had seen a young girl
laying on the floor with her mouth open.
Johnny D standing over her.
Was it true?
No, sir, not at all.
Nowhere near true.
If an execution date is set for McMillian,
and that day comes and it's time
for him to go to the electric chair,
would you be comfortable?
Yes... I'd be comfortable with it.
Do you think it's, fair,
just, he had his--
He had his day in court.
He was tried by a jury, they heard
the testimony and they believed it.
Chapman says he's going to
indict Myers for perjury,
not for what he said at the trial,
but for what he's saying now.
Next we'll be presenting our evidence
to the Alabama Supreme Court,
hoping they'll see
what we think is very clear,
that Walter McMillian is innocent.
McMillian's fate is now in the hands
of the Alabama Supreme Court,
which is expected to decide soon
if he's entitled to a new trial.
EJI, this is Brenda.
Okay, I'll let him know. Thank you.
The Supreme Court's ruling in the
McMillian case is ready to be picked up.
I'll be back.
A wave of shock rolled through
Monroe County today
when the Alabama Supreme Court overturned
the circuit court's previous decision
and granted a new trial to convicted
killer Walter 'Johnny D' McMillian.
This was the first time a court
outside the county was shown
the overwhelming evidence
proving Mr. McMillian's innocence.
Though the court
granted him a new trial,
we believe he deserves
to be released immediately,
and that's exactly what we'll be
arguing at the next hearing.
Mr. Chapman, how do you feel about--
I have to comment
at this time! Thank you.
I'm looking for attorney Bryan Stevenson.
- Mr. Stevenson?
- How can I help you?
I've been ordered
to serve you this pleading.
Thank you.
Tommy Chapman is asking the court
to stay the proceedings
so he can open up
a new investigation.
He's tryna buy time to rebuild his case.
That son of a bitch.
You're asking the court to keep a man
on death row you know is innocent?
Excuse me, Counselor?
I don't know what you mean.
The Supreme Court supports
all the evidence we presented.
Every one of your witnesses recanted.
You got nothing left.
Hang on. My investigation
is still in process.
And we both know you're not gonna
find anything.
Do you have any idea the bullshit
that I've had put up with
since your '60 Minutes' story aired?
I got the governor on my ass,
got the NAACP callin' me a racist,
I got Ronda's family
checkin' in every five minutes.
You can't keep an innocent man in prison
while you try to salvage your reputation.
This ain't got nothin' to do with
my reputation!
This is about the people of this county
who have hired me to keep them safe.
And what people
are you talking about right now?
The ones from this neighborhood?
Or the ones from the black community
you took Johnny D from?
You think they feel safe?
Your job isn't to defend a conviction,
Tommy, it's to achieve justice.
And as long as you keep fighting this,
someone from your county
has literally gotten away with murder.
You went all the way down
at my house at dinnertime
just to tell me how to do my job?
No. I'm here because I think you know
the difference between right and wrong,
and you know Johnny D
didn't kill that girl.
I'm filing a motion
to dismiss all charges,
and I think that you should join it.
Next time you wanna
stop by my house,
I'd appreciate you callin' me first.
Now you get the hell
off my property, Bryan.
- What's going on?
- They won't let us in.
That boy's makin' us wait
out here for over an hour.
Excuse me, what are you doing?
Just followin' orders.
This is a public hearing,
these people need to be let in now!
Y'all can go in now.
- Now that there's no seats left.
- It's okay.
We'll find room.
Excuse me, sir.
Right this way, come on.
Okay, thank you. Yes, ma'am.
All rise!
The 28th Judicial Circuit Court
of Alabama is now in session,
the honorable Judge
Pamela Baschab presiding.
Please be seated.
We've got a full house, so let's try
to move through this in a timely manner.
We're here because Mr. Stevenson
has filed a motion to dismiss
all charges against
Mr. McMillian in this case.
Mr. Stevenson, since it's your motion,
I'd like for you to speak to it first,
and then we'll hear from the State.
It's easy to see this case as one man
trying to prove his innocence.
But when you take a black man and you put
him on death row a year before his trial,
and exclude black people
from serving on his jury...
When you base your conviction
on the coerced testimony of a white felon
and ignore the testimonies of two dozen
law-abiding black witnesses...
When any evidence proving
his innocence is suppressed,
and anyone who tries
to tell the truth is threatened,
this case becomes more than the trial
of just a single defendant,
it becomes a test of whether
we're gonna be governed
by fear and by anger,
or by the rule of law.
If the people standing
in the back of this courtroom
are all presumed guilty when accused,
if they have to live here, and live in fear
of when this very thing will happen to them,
if we're just gonna accept
the system that treats you better
if you're rich and guilty
than if you're poor and innocent,
then we can't claim to be just.
If we say we are committed
to equal justice under law,
to protecting the rights of every citizen
regardless of wealth, race, or status,
then we have to end this nightmare
for Walter McMillian and his family.
The charges against him have been proven
to be a false construction
of desperate people,
fueled by bigotry and bias,
who ignored the truth in exchange
for easy solutions. And that's not the law.
That's not justice.
That's not right.
I asked that this case be dismissed
immediately, Your Honor.
Thank you.
Mr. Chapman, what is
the State's position on this motion?
Your honor, may I
approach the bench?
Your Honor... I'm troubled.
- You're troubled?
- Troubled.
'Cause I know that the people
in this community wanna go to sleep at night
knowin' that if someone
has committed a terrible crime,
that that someone is gonna be punished.
But... in this case...
Your Honor, I have taken
another look at the evidence...
Mr. Chapman, please.
And the State does not object
to the motion, Your Honor.
To be clear, Mr. Chapman.
Are you joining the motion
to dismiss all charges today?
Yes, Your Honor, I am.
Order! Please, order!
Well, y'all made my job easy today.
In the case of The People vs. McMillian,
the court hereby grants
the defendant's motion.
All charges against you
are dismissed, Mr. McMillian.
That means you're free. That means
you're free and you get to go home.
Your freedom has come.
We all with you, brother.
I came out of law school
with grand ideas in my mind
about how to change the world.
But Mr. McMillian made me realize
we can't change the world
with only ideas in our minds.
We need conviction in our hearts.
This man taught me
how to stay hopeful,
because I now know that
hopelessness is the enemy of justice.
Hope allows us to push forward,
even when the truth is distorted
by the people in power.
It allows us to stand up
when they tell us to sit down,
and to speak when they say be quiet.
Through this work, I've learned
that each of us
is more than the worst thing
that we've ever done;
that the opposite of poverty isn't wealth,
the opposite of poverty is justice;
that the character
of our nation isn't reflected
in how we treat the rich
and the privileged,
but how we treat the poor,
the disfavored and condemned.
Our system has taken more away
from this innocent man
than it has the power to give back.
But I believe if each of us
can follow his lead,
we can change this world
for the better.
If we can look at ourselves closely.
And honestly.
I believe we will see
that we all need justice.
We all need mercy.
And perhaps, we all need
some measure of unmerited grace.
Thank you.
I taught you all of that?
Yeah, you taught me some of that.
Pretty good, ain't it?