Tonight as the Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson, was honored in the ceremonial courtroom of the Southern District of New York with the 2016 Rule of Law Award; a man was executed in Alabama, where EJI is based, despite efforts to obtain a stay of execution.
Christopher Brooks was only 20 at the time of the offense, a rape/murder of a woman, and his court appointed lawyer was only afforded a $1000.00 fee from the state in order to represent Mr. Brooks in this death penalty case. The jury never heard crucial mitigating information which could have informed their decision to grant life without parole rather than the death penalty.
Bryan Stevenson spoke of Mr. Brooks’ case tonight and the pain he felt at leaving Alabama in order to be with us in New York as we honored him at the same time that Mr. Brooks would face execution. It was a somber moment in an evening filled with hope and optimism for so many of us who look to people like Bryan Stevenson as leaders in the movement to restore humanity and racial justice to the criminal justice system and to society as a whole.
Every time the State kills a person in the name of ‘the law’, the rule of law is diminished; for law is nothing without humanity.