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.
"Manifest Injustice is a piece of masterful storytelling. Readers won’t soon forget this harrowing tale of crime and punishment in America today, or the man imprisoned for 38 years for a crime he vehemently denies committing."—Gay Talese
"A fascinating, convoluted murder mystery demonstrating that the law should never be confused with common sense." —Kirkus Reviews "[A] moving and powerful story of a Kafkaesque justice system gone awry."—Publishers Weekly
Barry Siegel is a Pulitzer Prize winning former national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and he directs the literary journalism program at UC Irvine where he is a professor of English. He is the author of six books, including Shades of Gray and Claim of Privilege. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.
In the spring of 1962, the greater Phoenix area had not yet sprawled haphazardly across the high desert floor. To the northeast, where luxury resorts would later rise in Scottsdale, open reaches of barren sandy land rolled on for miles and miles. Yet the Scottsdale desert had its inhabitants, at least at night, when young people from all over Maricopa County would arrive to party, drink and build bonfires—or park in isolated lovers’ lanes.