Manifest Injustice: The True Story of a Convicted Murderer and the Lawyers Who Fought for His Freedom

By in Criminal Procedure on February 21, 2013

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In this remarkable legal page-turner, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Barry Siegel recounts the dramatic, decades-long saga of Bill Macumber, imprisoned for thirty-eight years for a double homicide he denies committing. In the spring of 1962, a school bus full of students stumbled across a mysterious crime scene on an isolated stretch of Arizona desert: an abandoned car and two bodies. This brutal murder of a young couple bewildered the sheriff ’s department of Maricopa County for years. Despite a few promising leads—including several chilling confessions from Ernest Valenzuela, a violent repeat offender—the case went cold. More than a decade later, a clerk in the sheriff ’s department, Carol Macumber, came forward to tell police that her estranged husband had confessed to the murders. Though the evidence linking Bill Macumber to the incident was questionable, he was arrested and charged with the crime. During his trial, the judge refused to allow the confession of now-deceased Ernest Valenzuela to be admitted as evidence in part because of the attorney-client privilege. Bill Macumber was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

The case, rife with extraordinary irregularities, attracted the sustained involvement of the Arizona Justice Project, one of the first and most respected of the non-profit groups that represent victims of manifest injustice across the country. With more twists and turns than a Hollywood movie, Macumber’s story illuminates startling, upsetting truths about our justice system, which kept a possibly innocent man locked up for almost forty years, and introduces readers to the generations of dedicated lawyers who never stopped working on his behalf, lawyers who ultimately achieved stunning results. With precise journalistic detail, intimate access and masterly storytelling, Barry Siegel will change your understanding of American jurisprudence, police procedure, and what constitutes justice in our country today.

2 thoughts on “Manifest Injustice: The True Story of a Convicted Murderer and the Lawyers Who Fought for His Freedom

  1. 1
    3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    When Justice Goes Astray, February 1, 2013
    IsolaBlue (Boston, MA USA) –

    This review is from: Manifest Injustice: The True Story of a Convicted Murderer and the Lawyers Who Fought for His Freedom (Hardcover)

    MANIFEST INJUSTICE should be on everyone’s reading list for the year. A fast moving book that reads as swiftly as a great mystery novel, Barry Siegel’s latest work takes readers into the real world of justice vs injustice. Never dry, never boring, and always educational and compelling, Siegel’s work tells the true story of the murder of two young people in Arizona in the 1960s and the subsequent arrest of a community resident many years later in the 1970s based on testimony provided by his estranged wife.

    Barry Siegel, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist is also the author of A DEATH IN WHITE BEAR LAKE (another excellent book). He is a painstaking researcher, a smooth writer, and his journalistic training shows throughout MANIFEST INJUSTICE. Although Siegel felt strongly enough about the arrest and incarceration of Bill Macumber to write a book about it, he didn’t forget his journalistic roots, and throughout the book there are facts mentioned that make the reader wonder not only whether Macumber was falsely accused, tried, and convicted or whether he could possibly have committed the murders.

    MANIFEST INJUSTICE should be required reading for all law students, anyone considering law school, and any citizen who feels that because he or she lives in America, that they are protected by an infallible justice system that always works the way it should. Siegel’s book shows us the many ways that police investigations can go wrong, when the courts fail not only the accused but themselves, and the sometimes impossible task of proving innocence. MANIFEST INJUSTICE makes the reader think and – in some cases – may inspire the reader to political action.

    No one can read a book about a man incarcerated for 38 years for a crime he probably didn’t commit without feeling some concern, without wondering how many more there are out there like him, and without considering how the justice system can improve itself so that these sorts of situations do not occur in the future. Because Macumber was arrested in the pre-DNA days, the “cold case” he was arrested for was especially difficult, although – in a rather strange play – it was his innocence that was hard to prove. Was he framed? Some people think so, and the thoughts, opinions, and legal detective work done around that theme are tantalizing.

    Still, there are moments while reading MANIFEST INJUSTICE where the reader will wonder: “Did he do it?” And maybe he did. But with no motivation, it is difficult to see why. Siegel’s book is made stronger, though, by the fact that he does allow the reader to ponder in either direction and, although the book is primarily about proving Macumber’s innocence, there is still the element of the unknown that twitches in the reader’s brain. Questionable doubt.

    One of the most amazing parts of the Macumber case is all the strong work done on his behalf by The Arizona Justice Project, a mostly volunteer organization. The real-life people who populate (and populated) the Project devoted so many pro bono hours to Macumber over the course of many years that it is difficult to calculate how many actual “people hours” went into researching his innocence, building a defense, and generally befriending him. Throughout the book – and throughout his connection with the Arizona Justice Project – Macumber comes across as a model inmate with intelligence, skills, and sensitivity. Siegel succeeds in showing us Macumber’s love for his three boys and the sadness he feels living life without them. We feel – by the end of the book – that we know Macumber well, although there is always that question mark hovering in the air.

    MANIFEST INJUSTICE is like watching the best documentary ever made. It makes the reader want to work for a program like the Arizona Justice Project. It makes us want to give out awards to all the law-school students, retired lawyers, and others who worked so long and so passionately on Macumber’s case. It also makes us question the system of an Appeals Board within the prison system and ultimately, the question of whether governors of states should be vested with the power to sign off on clemency, particularly in an election year.

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  2. 2
    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Manifest Injustice Indeed!, February 7, 2013

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Manifest Injustice: The True Story of a Convicted Murderer and the Lawyers Who Fought for His Freedom (Hardcover)

    Barry Siegel has written a riveting book about a man who was incarcerated for a crime of double murder in which the investigation and evidence thereafter was botched and left unguarded and open from the start. To hang a life sentence on a man where there was such malfeasance is indeed the worst kind of manifest injustice!And to withold major evidence of a dead client’s admission in the name of attorney-client privilege is breathtaking in its injustice, although Siegel has made its legal terms clear. This reader wonders about a few things left uninvestigated–if the convicted Macumber actually served in the CID in the Army and afterward; what kind of car Macumber drove; why he and his brother had their revolvers checked after the 1962 murders and the results; a more conclusive picture of the shooting into Macumbers’ kitchen; and other smaller facts. Were there enough character witnesses to testify to Macumber ever stretching the truth, etc. In the final analysis, however, there is much more than just reasonable doubt about Macumbers’ guilt and the reader is left with the truth about just how much the legal system operates in its subjectiveness. This is a compellng book that should be widely read and circulated, not just in law circles, but for all those interested in seeing justice served. May Mr. Macumber have enough years left to enjoy his life and be richly rewared for all of his good works.

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