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Friday, February 24, 2012

Does Arizona Governor Jan Brewer have a heart?

I've dedicated my life to seeking justice for missing persons, victims of homicide and their families. Compassion has been a driving force in my life and there is nothing in comparison to the good feeling that you are simply doing the right thing. 

I'm often left perplexed when I see stories on the news about people who are witness to a crime being committed and simply walk in the opposite direction as if they didn't see a thing. I've wondered why so many people lack one of the most basic of human characteristics - a heart. 

Recently, I became aware of the story of William Macumber, a man who has been in prison for 37 years and believed to be innocent by well-respected attorneys, a Superior Court Judge and even the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency. I was both inspired and disgusted by his story. I was inspired by the many professionals who stepped up to do the right thing, yet there is one person who has looked the other way. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. Not only has she refused to commute Macumber's sentence at the recommendation of her own Executive Board, she refuses to provide the public with a valid explanation of why.  

I've seen the Good, Bad and the Ugly after working in criminal justice and victim rights for nearly two decades and I thought I had seen it all. We place our trust in those we appoint into leadership positions to represent the people and make proper decisions in times of peace and in times of crisis. Not only has Governor Brewer looked the other way when confronted with injustice, she refuses to answer to the people who I have to assume she has forgotten she answers to.

On February 20, 1975, William Macumber was sentenced to life in prison for the 1962 double homicide of a young couple in the Arizona desert. At the time, the jury was presented minimal evidence, now considered more than questionable. His conviction was primarily based upon the testimony of his former wife, Carol Kempfert, who had been employed at Maricopa County Sheriff's Office at the time. The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency released a letter stating a 'great injustice has occured' and Macumber should be released. The letter also stated Macumber's wife had the motive, means and opportunity to pin the murders on her husband. Even family members of Kempfert have publicly stated she was capable of framing Macumber and had access to the evidence. Reasonable doubt? 

During Macumber's trial, the jury had not been told there was another man who had been arrested five years after the initial homicides for another double homicide that was eerily similar to the 1962 murders. A drifter, Ernesto Valenzuela was convicted of the second double homicide but what is even more significant is Valenzuela admitted to the 1962 double homicide to not only two attorneys but a psychiatrist. After Valenzuela's murder during a 1973 prison fight, the witnesses offered to testify at Macumber's trial as attorney/physician client privilege no longer applied but the judge refused to hear the testimony of all three witnesses. One of the witnesses, Thomas W. O'Toole went on to serve 24 years as an Arizona Superior Court Judge and stated there was no doubt in his mind Valenzuela committed all four murders. 

Despite a direct admission made to reputable witnesses and the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency 2010 unanimous recommendation that Macumber be released, Governor Jan Brewer has refused. The only statement issued by Governor Brewer's office stated the governor carefully scrutinizes every Executive Clemency case and balances real and important concepts of public safety, justice and mercy. I've always been very respectful of Governor Brewer but one must question the timing of her decision and if she felt granting clemency would have compromised the announcement she was running for full-term as Arizona Governor. Political motive?

Now 76, Macumber suffers from serious health ailments and could pose little threat to public safety. From the evidence presented since he was handed down a life sentence with no possibility of parole, Macumber probably never did pose a threat. He has no prior criminal history. During his time in prison, Macumber has worked as a clerk, education aide, academic clerk, law library clerk, cable TV and audio/visual tech among many other respected positions. In the 37 years of incarceration he has only had one behavioral infraction in 1996 for being involved in an Unauthorized Gathering. A threat to society?  Really?

Governor or Tin Man?
Governor Brewer, please explain how the prosecution in this case fulfilled their obligation to 'bear the burden of proof' and prove Macumber’s guilt BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. Please explain why you have totally disregarded your own Arizona Board of Executive Clemency. Please explain why you refuse to grant clemency to a man who has served 37 years of his life in prison based upon the testimony of a woman who should be investigated for motive, means and opportunity who had direct access to the evidence in the case. That in itself should have disqualified her testimony . . . you know the powerful testimony that was used to serve up an equally harsh life sentence. Governor Brewer, I have to think there is a heart somewhere in there. I pray you don’t wait to offer your condolences to his family after he has fulfilled his life sentence. WHERE IS THE JUSTICE AND MERCY IN THAT?

For additional information:

KNXV News 15 - Son Confronts Brewer Over Clemency Decision
ABC News - Did Wife Frame Husband for Cold Case Murders?
New York Times - Governor Rebuffs Clemency Board in Murder Case
New York Times - Why Won't You Free William Macumber?