John Corry, Former Times Reporter and TV Critic, Dies at 89

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But he was perhaps best remembered for his inquiry to free a young man from prison in a matricide case, starting with only the suspicions of the playwright Arthur Miller, who lived a few miles from the crime scene. “He said he thought that Peter Reilly could have murdered his mother, but he wondered how he could have done it without getting blood on his clothes,” Mr. Corry wrote in 1975. “The playwright said it bothered him.”

By then, the case was two years cold. Mr. Reilly had been convicted of killing his mother, Barbara Gibbons, in their Canaan, Conn., home on Sept. 28, 1973, though he insisted he had returned from a church meeting and found her body on the floor, the victim of a ferocious attack. Her head had been nearly severed, she had been stabbed repeatedly and both her legs and some ribs had been broken.

Under all-night grilling by state police detectives, he confessed, though he recanted the next day. Ambiguities filled the trial — about Mr. Reilly’s movements on the night of the killing, the absence of a weapon or bloodstains on his clothing, and the timing of calls he made after finding the body.

A jury convicted him of manslaughter, and he was sentenced to six to 16 years in prison. The case was largely forgotten until Mr. Miller approached Mr. Corry, whose investigation found a crucial time discrepancy. A priest said Mr. Reilly had left the church at 9:40 p.m. for a six-mile drive home. His first call after finding the body, to a doctor, was received at 9:52 p.m.

A judge ruled that there could not have been enough time for Mr. Reilly to commit the murder and dispose of all the bloody evidence before the police arrived at 10:02 p.m. The charges were dropped, and Mr. Reilly was released. No one else was ever caught.

Another Corry investigation was set off by a 1982 literary dispute over the authenticity of books by Mr. Kosinski, a Polish-born novelist. After a Times Magazine piece by Barbara Gelb detailed his early life under Nazi and Communist governments in Poland and his American writing successes, The Village Voice published its own story. The paper alleged that he was a plagiarist in the pay of the C.I.A., that his plots had been stolen from Polish novels unknown in America and that hired “editors” had ghostwritten his books.

Mr. Corry responded with a 6,000-word article in the Arts and Leisure section, defending Mr. Kosinski. Mr. Corry contended that the allegations of plagiarism and of other nefarious activities were the product of a 15-year disinformation campaign by Polish Communist intelligence operatives, resulting from the novelist’s denunciations of Polish authorities for crushing the Solidarity movement.

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