Charlie, the Murderer

In Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, we see a lot of discussion about identity and what it means. However, while it’s a factor that tells us a lot about a person and how they act or will act, identity can also be forced upon you. Stereotyping is a serious issue that brings about forced identities and takes away from who a person really is or who they can be. In on of the most emotional recollections from Just Mercy, Stevenson tells the readers about a fourteen year old boy named Charlie.  The young boy has been in jail for about two days for the crime he committed. Charlie killed his mother’s boyfriend. While that sounds very condemning Stevenson reminds us that we cannot forget that Charlie is a young boy of only 14, the concepts of right and wrong are not concrete within his brain, and Charlie suffered abuse prior to that. The mom’s boyfriend would often come home extremely drunk and beat Charlie’s mom. Charlie, who loved his mother dearly, had enough after a night where the beating was so severe that she was left on the floor completely unconscious bleeding from the head. Charlie finds the boyfriend’s gun and shoots him in the head in a fit of emotional rage due to the trauma. We later learn that the boyfriend is a well respected cop within the community named George. The local justice system felt compelled to bring to justice who killed George, and it happened to be a scrawny young boy riddled with trauma. Unfairly, Charlie is labeled as a cold blooded murderer at the age of 14. The only life he was able to live, kept down by his mother’s abuser, and it ends in his identity changing to a murderer. Luckily Stevenson can get Charlie out of this situation and we learn that an elderly couple takes Charlie in as one of their own so that his identity can become something else, and he isn’t left living the rest of his days as just a kid-murderer.