GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT by Donald S. Connery

GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Peter Reilly, the Canaan, Conn., teenager who had ""a kind of Billy Budd innocence"" didn't look the part of a crazed killer, but the DA was bringing him to trial for a particularly heinous crime--the murder and sexual mutilation of his mother. The police had a ""confession,"" reluctantly given by Peter, after an astounding, classic application of psychological brainwashing (""I want to tell you I did it, now, but I'm still not sure I did do it""); Peter was convicted. Heroically the townspeople--not 'do-good' liberals but law-and-order types--rallied around Peter and eventually, three years later, he was freed with the discovery of state-suppressed evidence. The story of Pete's dazed bewilderment, including his guileless faith that the police only wanted to help him, is a real tear-jerker, and Connery doesn't mind getting a bit sentimental as he argues on Pete's behalf. First there was Barbara Gibbons, Pete's mother, triply despised for being an alcoholic-lesbian-intellectual in a respectable New England town. Fact is, Pete's friends thought she was ""a real dynamite lady"" while the police were going on the unstated assumption that eighteen years with his mother had turned Pete psycho. More baldly, the dearth of material evidence, the violation of a traumatized kid's civil rights, and the psychological improbabilities of the DA's case are about as glaring as headlights in a blackout. For a bleaker but less bathetic account of Peter Reilly's story see Joan Barthel, A Killing in Canaan (1976). In neither book is there ever a serious doubt that a gross miscarriage of justice is taking place. With an implicit moral: it could happen in your community too.

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1977
Publisher: Putnam