VIRGINIA: Eleventh-Hour Reprieve

VIRGINIA: Eleventh-Hour Reprieve

In 1979, a 15-year-old girl and her 44-year-old mother were brutally murdered in Norfolk, Va. Their sometime housemate, a drug addict named Joe Giarratano, woke up from a stupor, saw the bodies and confessed to the killings. Last week, just three days before Giarratano was scheduled to die in the electric chair, Governor L. Douglas Wilder commuted his sentence to life in prison and offered him the chance to seek a new trial.

The reason? Giarratano, 33, now a jailhouse lawyer, is no longer convinced he was the killer. Since 1983, he and supporters, ranging from conservative columnist James J. Kilpatrick...

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