Walter McMillian and Just Mercy: Fact and Fiction

Walter McMillian and Just Mercy: Fact and Fiction

Just Mercy is a drama and legal thriller by Destin Cretton about American lawyer Brian Stevenson, who was one of the first to fight manifestations of racism and prejudice against blacks in the US criminal justice system. The central figure of the film is the black convict Walter McMillian. How truthfully was his story reflected in Cretton’s creation?

Walter McMillian Just Mercy
Convicted Walter McMillian and his character in the film “Just Mercy”

Walter McMillian’s past has not been fully revealed

The film shows only one negative side of the hero – cheating on his wife with a white woman. However, it is not mentioned that there were pages in McMillian’s history related to the drug trade. It was while selling marijuana that Walter met Karen Kelly, whose life eventually sank into a deep abyss. Also, “Just Mercy” didn’t talk about Walters’ nightclub weekends. However, in general, McMillian’s portrait is true and all sources show the most important thing – he had nothing to do with the murder of a white girl, Rhonda Morrison, for which he received a death sentence.

Rhonda Morrison photo
Rhonda Morrison – the girl whose killer was never found

What about Brian Stevenson?

The film closely follows Stevenson’s self-portrait described in his book. The main inconsistencies relate to some points in the plot. Some stories took place in a different period of time, but in the movie they were shown simultaneously with the McMillian case, which made the picture more capacious and rich. For example, the scene when a white prison guard inspects Stevenson and forces him to undress did happen, but according to the memoirs, this happened while meeting with a different client in another correctional facility.

Other characters

Brian’s relationship with accuser Chapman was even more hostile in real life, with the latter behaving even worse than shown, but he ended up joining the defense line.

Tommy Chapman photo
McMillian accuser Tommy Chapman

Sheriff Tate was portrayed truthfully, and according to court records, he said dirtier things during Walter’s arrest than depicted in the film (although the official himself denied this). In addition, he initially arrested McMillian on charges of sodomy, and not on murder, which was later framed. Tate really did not want to admit that the prisoner was innocent, he seems to have held this view even after the ex-death rower was released.

The article was written based on the materials of the publication and on the basis of the author’s own comparison of the facts and the plot of the film.

Walter McMillian and Just Mercy: Fact and Fiction
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