Donald S. Connery

Donald S. Connery of Kent, Connecticut is an author and independent journalist who turned his attention to the criminal justice system in 1973 after long experience as a reporter, writer, broadcaster and foreign correspondent for Armed Forces Radio Service, United Press International, Time and Life magazines, and NBC.

Born (2-9-26) and raised in New York City, he served in the U.S. Army in the South Pacific and The Philippines during World War II. He attended Harvard College on the GI Bill, graduating in 1950. His reporting assignments—as a Time Inc. Cold War correspondent based in New Delhi, Tokyo, Moscow and London--took him to six continents and 60 countries. Later, he would be the only international journalist ever to make a career shift to investigating miscarriages of justice.

For United Press, he covered the United Nations in its early days as well as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s campaign of false accusations during the Red Scare. For Time, Life, Fortune and Sports Illustrated, he covered business, sports, entertainment, politics,  presidential campaigns, the post-colonial emergence of independent states in Asia and Africa, civil wars, the flight of the Dalai Lama from Tibet, and major incidents of the Soviet-American superpower confrontation.

His 6,000-mile journey (with photojournalist John Launois) through restricted territories in the Soviet Far East and Siberia produced a world scoop for Time and Life. One of the handful of foreign journalists stationed in Moscow in 1962, his reports and broadcasts during the Cuban Missile Crisis led to his expulsion from the Soviet Union.

Connery returned to the United States in 1968 as a free-lance writer with the first two of his six books already published (The Scandinavians; The Irish). In 1973, he was drawn into the Barbara Gibbons murder case in Connecticut, a classic instance of a wrongful conviction based solely on a false confession. The victim’s 18-year-old son, Peter Reilly, was led to believe during a round-the-clock police interrogation that he had actually committed the crime he could not remember—the murder of his own mother.

As Connery reported in his 1977 book, Guilty Until Proven Innocent, the Reilly case proved to be the most controversial in Connecticut history. The teenager was fully exonerated after public protests, media investigations (The N.Y. Times, 60 Minutes, etc.), a court’s reversal of his conviction, revelations of police and prosecutorial misconduct, a re-investigation ordered by the governor, and a grand jury inquiry which cleared Reilly while identifying other suspects.

Though their investigative failures were flagrant, the police continued to insist they were not mistaken. In 2005, through an application to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission and the intervention of a superior court judge, Connery won exclusive access to the long-buried case file on the unsolved Gibbons homicide. An updated version of Guilty Until Proven Innocent was published by Berkley/Bantam in January 2010. A chapter of his Reilly-case book appears in the recently published “True Stories of False Confessions.”

Over three decades, Connery has investigated and helped expose other cases of convictions based on false confessions. In his 1982 book, The Inner Source: Exploring Hypnosis with Dr. Herbert Spiegel (published again in 2003), he drew on the experience of a world authority on mind control to explain how individuals differ widely in their susceptibility to suggestion and interrogation. He has written the forewords to The Wrong Guys, on the notorious Norfolk, VA case of multiple false confessions, and  Annals of Gullibility, by Professor Stephen Greenspan.

Principally with Convicting the Innocent, 1996, on the Richard Lapointe case (a brain-damaged Connecticut man erroneously imprisoned for murder), he has drawn public and media attention to the need to fully record suspect interrogations. He has challenged mistaken law-enforcement investigations, as in New Haven’s still unsolved 1998 Suzanne Jovin murder case, and has helped expose such wrongful imprisonments as Michael Pardue in Alabama, Beverly Monroe in Virginia, Ryan Thompson in Connecticut, Bernard Baran in Massachusetts, and Martin Tankleff in New York.

From 1998 to 2005, he was the most outspoken advocate for Connecticut State Trooper Mark Lauretano in a whistle-blowing case involving wrongdoing by his own department. A federal judge’s decision upholding the officer’s right to publicly defend himself against slanders by his superiors led to a $450,000 settlement for the trooper and set a free-speech precedent for police officers nationwide.

Connery has addressed justice issues in broadcasts, university lectures and forums seeking system reforms. He is a member of the advisory board of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law School in Chicago, an organization working closely with the Innocence Projects in many states. He is an advisor to the National Center for Reason and Justice, a Boston-based group defending individuals accused and often imprisoned on baseless charges of sexual abuse.

He has been an organizer/moderator at three conferences examining unjust convictions:

  1. 1)     the 1995 Hartford “Convicting the Innocent” public forum on false confession cases,   with playwright Arthur Miller, Hugo Adam Bedau and Richard Ofshe, and others.
  2. 2)     the 1997 two-day Salem, Massachusetts “Day of Contrition” conference on wrongful convictions based on false allegations of satanic or ritual sex abuse ;
  3. 3)     the 1998 New York Academy of Sciences forum on the Wenatchee, WA “witch hunt” cases, with Arthur Miller, William Styron, Mike Wallace and Nat Hentoff.

 

Connery is writing a personal history of miscarriages of justice. His address is 384 Skiff Mountain Road, Kent, CT 06757. Phone/fax: 860-927-3818.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..