Based on a true story, a reporter answers an ad and writes about an 11-year-old murder case. Because the victim was a cop, police are hostile to his investigation.
In 1932 in Chicago two men enter Wanda's speakeasy and kill a policeman. Helen Wiecek (Joanne De Bergh) and her husband Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte) are arrested because the suspect Tomek Zaleska (George Tyne) slept in their apartment. Frank is on parole and is booked. Tomek and Frank are prosecuted for murder, and Wanda Skutnik (Betty Garde) identifies both men, who are convicted and sent to prison.
Eleven years later a want ad offers a reward of $5,000 to solve this murder. Newspaper editor Brian Kelly (Lee J. Cobb) asks reporter P. J. McNeal (James Stewart) for a story. McNeal finds Frank's mother Tillie Wiecek (Kasia Orzazewski) scrubbing a floor and asks her about the money. McNeal writes how she saved. Kelly asks McNeal to go see Wiecek in prison. Wiecek explains that he is innocent. McNeal goes to divorced Helen, who says that Frank was with her on that day. She says that he urged her to divorce and remarry for his son's sake. McNeal questions her husband Rayska (E. G. Marshall).
Wiecek asks McNeal not to write any more stories. McNeal talks to Tomek, who says he did not do it and so cannot confess. McNeal tells Wiecek that he will investigate. Leonarde Keeler (himself), who invented the lie detector, explains how it works and tests Wiecek, who passes.
McNeal finds the booking card despite police resistance, and he sneaks in to photograph the book the police were hiding. The publisher Palmer (Howard Smith) summons Kelly and McNeal to hear objections by the commissioner, a representative of the governor, and state attorney Sam Faxon (John McIntire). The governor will give Wiecek a hearing. McNeal has testimony the judge wanted a new trial and a photo that Skutnik saw Wiecek before booking and lied about it. Palmer's attorney Martin Burns (Paul Harvey) wants more time.
McNeal looks for Polish Skutnik, and a woman gives him her address. Skutnik and her husband are hostile, but McNeal says she could get the reward. She still refuses. Palmer decides to end the story, and Burns will cancel the hearing at the capital.
McNeal tells Tillie Wiecek that they are calling off the pardon board hearing. McNeal sees an article and asks the police for a photo enlargement. He calls Burns, who tells the board that McNeal has new evidence. McNeal comes in and stalls, explaining his evidence and saying that Skutnik lied. He shows them the photo with Wiecek and Skutnik. The enlargement is sent over the wire and proves when the photo was taken. In the final scene Wiecek leaves prison with McNeal and hugs his family.
This docudrama reveals how innocent people can be sent
to prison and how police and others may resist efforts to discover
the truth after the trial. Thanks to a journalist and an interested
public two innocent people were eventually released.