Law school hosts Just Mercy screening, discussion

January 28, 2020

Student Maya Foster ’22 (second from left) with Maryland Carey Law panelists and event organizers at a screening of Just Mercy hosted by the law school.

Fired up by the idea of advocating for others, Maryland Carey Law student Maya Foster ’22 has wanted to be a lawyer as long as she can remember. Reading Bryan Stevenson’s best-selling novel Just Mercy—a true story of the author’s quest, fresh out of Harvard Law, to overturn the death sentence of Walter McMillian, a black Alabama man wrongfully convicted of murdering a white woman—further inspired the New York native to apply to law school.

“Seeing someone like Bryan Stevenson make a real difference in the world,” said Foster, “solidifies the idea that you can make a change.”

So when she saw the trailer for the film adaptation of Just Mercy in fall 2019, the first-year Maryland Carey Law student envisioned an event for her new law school community. A casual mention to Dean Donald Tobin that the law school should hold a screening and discussion was all it took.

“I was delighted when Maya suggested that we host an event around this powerful film,” said Dean Tobin. “Supporting activities that enrich the academic experience for our students is a priority for us here at Maryland Carey Law.”

Before Foster knew it, Associate Dean Russell McClain had arranged the free event to take place at The Charles Theatre on Jan. 23. And there she was, experiencing the movie surrounded by students, faculty, and staff, followed by a thought-provoking discussion led by profs. Michael Millemann, Lee Kovarsky, and Michael Pinard—all experts in the issues surrounding criminal and death penalty cases.

“The panelists were wonderful voices to hear afterwards” said Foster. “Their stories showed us just how realistic the film was.”

Maybe most impactful, she added, was a comment from Prof. Michael Pinard, who charged the audience with turning knowledge into action.

“Now that we have this information,” said Pinard, “what are we going to do with it?”

Foster, a current Honorable William H. and Madeline W. Murphy Scholarship recipient who is increasingly focused on a law career that involves helping people in marginalized populations and communities, promises to answer Pinard’s call to action, just as thousands of Maryland Carey Law alumni have done before her.


  • Professor Michael Millemann has published extensively on prisoners’ rights and the death penalty. He was chairman of the Correctional Reform Section of the Maryland State Bar Association.
  • Professor Lee Kovarsky’s expertise includes criminal procedure, constitutional law, and the death penalty. He regularly represents capital prisoners during federal appellate and Supreme Court review of their sentences.
  • Professor Michael Pinard is the Francis & Harriet Iglehart Professor of Law and co-director of the Clinical Law program. He was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change in 2011.

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