In August 2001, a fire at a Prosser, Washington high school caused extensive damage. Gabriel Baddeley, a 19-year-old student with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, was known as a troublemaker, and was questioned by police.
With coaching by the police, Baddeley – whose mental disability made him highly suggestible – falsely confessed to the crime and later recanted, but was still charged.
Baddeley pled guilty to arson in March 2002, and was sentenced to two months in jail, 180 hours of community service, and ordered to pay $650,000 in restitution.
In 2004, the real arsonist confessed that she had set the fire, and provided details corroborating her story.
On March 31, 2004, a judge granted the prosecution’s motion to vacate Baddeley’s conviction and charges were dismissed.
- Stephanie Denzel