Firesign joined several stalwarts of the Kansas City legal community to sponsor a Feb. 21 screening of “Just Mercy,” a special event to raise awareness and funds for the Midwest Innocence Project.
“Just Mercy” tells the story of Walter McMillian, who was exonerated for a murder charge by a young defense attorney, Bryan Stevenson. As the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson ultimately made a career of advocating for the poor and people of color in the criminal justice system. He has obtained landmark Supreme Court decisions and saved dozens of prisoners from the death penalty.
The film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2019, has earned considerable critical acclaim, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor at the NAACP Image Awards.
The Feb. 21 event comprised a private screening of “Just Mercy” at the Alamo Drafthouse, followed by a special panel discussion moderated by former Kansas City Mayor Sly James. The panelists, who discussed issues of race and justice, included:
- Tricia Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project;
- Lamonte McIntyre, an exoneree;
- Ruth Petsch, district defender at the Jackson County Public Defender’s Office;
- Shaun Stallworth, president of the Jackson County Bar Association; and
- Kevin Willmott, an Oscar-winning screenwriter and professor of film and media studies at the University of Kansas.
In addition to Firesign, event supporters included Husch Blackwell, Lathrop GPM, Stinson, Wickham James and the Jackson County Bar Association.