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Peter A. Reilly Trial: 1974 & 1976 - A Son Confesses, Jury Opts For Manslaughter, New Evidence Results In Reversal

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Defendant: Peter Reilly
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyer: Catherine Roraback
Chief Prosecutor: John Bianchi
Judge: John Speziale
Place: Litchfield, Connecticut
Dates of Trials: Trial: February 28-April 12, 1974; Appeal: March 25, 1976
Verdict: Guilty of manslaughter in first-degree; conviction reversed on appeal
Sentence: More than 6 but no more than 16 years

SIGNIFICANCE: Peter Reilly was convicted on the basis of a confession he made to police after eight hours of questioning. He later recanted the confession, and after extensive community effort, he appealed for a new trial based on new evidence. His petition for a new trial was granted, but the state never brought him to a second trial and he was thus exonerated.

On the night of September 28, 1973, Barbara Gibbons of Canaan, Connecticut, was brutally killed at her home. Her throat was slashed, almost severing her head, and her legs were broken, apparently after she was killed. There was evidence she had been sexually molested. There were multiple cuts to her body, and the bedroom was splashed with blood. Peter Reilly, her son, claimed that he returned home from a teen center meeting and found his mother on the floor of her bedroom, covered with blood and breathing with difficulty. He placed several phone calls, first for an ambulance, then for a doctor, and finally to a hospital. The hospital notified police, who arrived at 10:02 P.M. Reilly explained to the police that after leaving the teen center meeting, he drove a friend, John Sochocki, to his home, then arrived home between 9:50 and 9:55, discovered his mother, made the calls, and waited for the police.

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