The film follows the real life story of Bryan Stevenson (Jordan), the defense attorney who fought to get the wrongfully convicted Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) off of death row. McMillian, a Black man from Alabama, was charged with the murder of an 18-year-old white woman named Ronda Morrison in 1988. Despite zero physical evidence tying him to the crime scene, a rock-solid alibi with multiple witnesses, and a gerrymandered trial that lasted one day, McMillian was sentenced to death row and spent six years in prison. Stevenson, who at the time was director of the Alabama Capital Representation Resource Center, took up McMillian's case and over several years and multiple appeals finally got McMillian's conviction reversed in 1993 after exposing how deeply rooted racism was — and currently is — in the criminal justice system. (Warning: Viewers should be aware that the film features potentially triggering scenes, including an execution of a Black man.)
Warner Bros. said in a statement, "We believe in the power of story. Our film Just Mercy, based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, is one resource we can humbly offer to those who are interested in learning more about the systemic racism that plagues our society."
The free streaming release comes at a time when protests over the police-involved deaths of George Floyd and more Black Americans are sweeping the nation.