The Nation: Righting a Wrong

One September night in 1973, police in rural Canaan, Conn. (pop. 1,100), were summoned to the home of Barbara Gibbons. A hard-drinking woman of 51 who had never married, she had been stabbed to death, and officers promptly arrested the slight, trembling youth who said he had found the body. He was Peter Reilly, Barbara's teenage son.

The boy, who had never known his father, was inarticulate, malleable and anxious to please authority. After 25 nearly sleepless hours of questioning and polygraph testing, he almost obligingly agreed with his police interrogators and "confessed" that he had killed his mother. Though he later...

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