Manifesting Justice: Wrongly Convicted Women Reclaim Their Rights

Valena Beety

Citadel Press , 2022

Agent: Jill Marr

Through the lens of her work with the Innocence Movement and her client Leigh Stubbsa woman denied a fair trial in 2000 largely due to her sexual orientation - innocence litigator, activist, and founder of the West Virginia Innocence Project Valena Beety examines the failures in America’s criminal legal system and the reforms necessary to eliminate wrongful convictionsparticularly with regards to women, the queer community, and people of color…

When Valena Beety first became a federal prosecutor, her goal was to protect victims, especially women, from cycles of violence. What she discovered was that not only did prosecutions often fail to help victims, they frequently relied on false information, forensic fraud, and police and prosecutor misconduct.

Seeking change, Beety began working in the Innocence Movement, helping to free factually innocent people through DNA testing and criminal justice reform. Manifesting Justice focuses on the shocking story of Beety’s client Leigh Stubbs—a young, queer woman in Mississippi, convicted of a horrific crime she did not commit because of her sexual orientation. Beety weaves Stubbs’s harrowing narrative through the broader story of a broken criminal justice system where defendants—including disproportionate numbers of women of color and queer individuals—are convicted due to racism, prejudice, coerced confessions, and false identifications.

Drawing on interviews with both innocence advocates and wrongfully convicted women, along with Beety’s own experiences as an expert litigator and a queer woman, Manifesting Justice provides a unique outsider/insider perspective. Beety expands our notion of justice to include not just people who are factually innocent, but those who are over-charged, pressured into bad plea deals, and over-sentenced. The result is a riveting and timely book that not only advocates for reforming the conviction process—it will transform our very ideas of crime and punishment, what innocence is, and who should be free.

With a Foreword by Koa Beck, author of White Feminism


“Arizona University law professor Beety spotlights the case of her former client Leigh Stubbs in this shocking study of how the criminal justice system discriminates against “poor people of color and people with non-mainstream identities such as genderqueer and transgender individuals.” Arrested in March 2000 after she sought help for a female friend who had overdosed on OxyContin, Stubbs was convicted of sexual assault and illegal drug possession and sentenced to 44 years in prison. As Beety methodically explains, the prosecution built their case on faulty forensic evidence, false testimony, and insinuations that Stubbs, a lesbian, was a predatory sexual deviant. The Mississippi Innocence Project took on the case and Beety launched a campaign for a new trial, despite the long odds facing a convicted defendant. From habeas corpus laws rife with nearly impossible timing restrictions to federal appeals courts that automatically defer to state court decisions, Beety explains how the justice system “bends, sometimes inordinately, to uphold a conviction.” Her solutions include legislation to allow defendants to “challenge charges, convictions and sentences based on racially disparate impact” and rewards for prosecutors who acknowledge wrongful convictions, rather than seeking “a conviction for conviction’s sake.” Enriched by Beety’s lucid case studies and vivid profiles of Stubbs and other clients, this is an invigorating and eye-opening call to action.” --~Publishers Weekly

“A thought-provoking book about the American justice system . . . Beety, an innocence litigator and former federal prosecutor, does an excellent job in telling the dramatic story [and] concludes her important book by proclaiming ‘Let’s manifest justice now!’”