Description  Details

Discipline Literature

Assignment type : Research Paper


Required Sources: Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson

At least 3 peer-reviewed academic journal articles

At least 2 newspaper accounts

detailing death penalty cases or executions

At least 1 interview or personal account—textual, visual, or audio—

given by someone condemned to execution

At least 2 other sources. The remaining 2 sources may be any combination

of the following:

Textual Works of Non-Fiction

Biographies, Autobiographies, Memoirs, Newspaper Articles, Newspaper Op-Eds, Academic Journal Articles, History Textbooks, Sociological Studies, Political Tracts, Written Testimonies, Government Websites, Pamphlets, etc.

Textual Works of Fiction

Short Stories, Novels, Poetry, Plays

Non-Textual Sources

Radio Interviews, Documentaries, TV Interviews, Political Speeches, Films, TV Shows, Songs, Artwork.

Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy presents a prime opportunity for us—as readers, as thinkers, as citizens and community members—to decipher the arguments that our criminal justice system makes about us as a nation and about the values we hold (or to which we aspire). As you have already seen, Just Mercy is not merely the story of one man or one crime. Stevenson’s story spans many states and time periods. He gives histories, analyzes social and economic conditions, introduces us to real people’s pain and triumph, educates us about law and criminal justice, and inspires us by making us think about ways to alleviate the great suffering that exists in our world.

He also makes many profound ARGUMENTS of the kinds we have been studying:

  • He exposes the many definitions that society makes about people of color, the poor, the marginalized, the criminal, and the hidden voices of our society.
  • He defines his vision of social justice.
  • He examines the causes of crime and of failed justice.
  • He details the effects wrought by unfair practices and flawed understanding.
  • He asks us to see the fallacies at work in current understanding of the criminal justice system.
  • Above all, he evaluates our society to determine how highly we value humanity and he proposes new ways of thinking about the hidden voices of our society.

Research Question:

In your research paper, you will EXAMINE the arguments that Bryan Stevenson makes in Just Mercy, and you will evaluate his argument through your own research on this important issue. In this final paper of the semester, you will bring together the many skills we have learned thus far: how to articulate the argument you find through close-reading of texts, how to critique arguments by analyzing the authors’ rhetorical techniques and types of appeals, how to decipher an arguer’s definitions and see how they differ from other accepted understandings of the concept in question, how to spot fallacies in argumentation and consider why such arguments may or may not be effective, and how to trace causes and effects when examining complex concepts.

Stevenson’s book lays the foundation for your research essay, which you will center on questions of race, poverty, criminal procedure, and social justice. While Stevenson’s project focuses largely on death penalty practices—as will your paper—it is important not to think of this essay as a pro- or anti-death penalty debate. Though you may use your research to illuminate various benefits and detriments of the death penalty, you are not being asked to choose a side or exclude consideration of opposing views. Your task is to analyze this complex issue, focusing on our desire to understand, define, and evaluate the inter-connected issues of race, poverty, and social justice.

Your essay must do the following:

  • Explain Stevenson’s primary argument—show his stance on the death penalty and how he defines its role in our society.
  • Critique Stevenson’s delivery—do a rhetorical analysis in which you evaluate the effectiveness of Stevenson’s presentation.
  • Evaluate Stevenson’s claims in light of research that you conduct.

To accomplish these aims, you will want to address some of the following questions:

  • What do prison conditions and death penalty practices argue about our society’s values?
  • How does American society tend to define prisoners?
  • Do these definitions differ based on the people crafting them?
  • What relationships exist between poverty, race, and criminal prosecution?
  • What fallacious claims are often made in the pursuit of criminal justice?
  • What effects result from current death penalty practices?
  • Whose voices are prominent and whose are hidden in this discussion?

Format MLA

Academic Level: –

Volume of 14 pages (3850 words)

Type of service: Custom writing

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