For more than three decades, Alabama public interest attorney Bryan Stevenson has advocated on behalf of the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned, seeking to eradicate racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Now HBO Documentary Films is telling his story.
Set to premiere June 26 on the premium cable channel, True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality follows the Equal Justice Initiative founder-director’s struggle to create greater fairness in the system and shows how racial injustice emerged, evolved and continues to threaten the country, challenging viewers to confront it.
Told primarily in his own words, True Justice shares Stevenson’s experience with a criminal justice system that, he asserts, “treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent.” The burden of facing this system is explored in candid interviews with associates, close family members and clients.
The film chronicles Stevenson’s work in Alabama, birthplace of the civil rights movement and home to the Equal Justice Initiative, as well as the early influences that drove him to become an advocate for the poor and the incarcerated. As a young lawyer in the 1980s, he witnessed firsthand how courts unfairly applied the death penalty based on race and how the Supreme Court ultimately declared that racial bias in the administration of the death penalty was “inevitable.”
Tracing the trajectory of the high court since its 1857 Dred Scott decision, which ruled that African Americans are not citizens of the U.S., True Justice shows how the Court has long sanctioned inequality, oppression and violence. Illuminating the power of memory in cultural change, the film instills hope of a brighter American future through the insights of this pioneer.
Six-time Emmy winner Peter Kunhardt executive produces and directs the documentary, with Emmy winners Teddy Kunhardt and George Kunhardt producing and directing. It is co-produced by HBO and Kunhardt Films, with HBO’s Jacqueline Glover, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller also exec producing.
“I’m grateful to HBO and Kunhardt Films for their interest in our work,” says Stevenson. “We have ignored our nation’s history of racial inequality and the unfairness of our criminal justice for far too long. I am persuaded that if we commit to challenging racial injustice, poverty and abuse of power, we can achieve a more just society. I hope films like this can contribute to that goal.”
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