(yes, viewing requires signing up, but its free, and its the NYTimes, worth the effort)
The gist of the article is that a priest revealed a dead man's confession to free a man convicted for a crime the dead man confessed to. Apparently the priest decided that the confess didn't count under Roman Catholic law, not sure how, and thus determined that it was no longer confidential.
I understand the position of the Catholic church in maintaining the confidentiality of confessions. Without that confidentiality those whose confessions could indict them would be far more reticent to seek absolution. Which by the perspective of the Catholic church is critical to salvation, and the status of eternal souls out rank mortal life.
Now one who accepts little or no catholic theology might dismiss this out of hand. Indeed when an innocent person goes to jail and a guilty person confesses the status of the guilty man's soul or theological arguments may mean little to the innocent.
However, removing the protection would have little net benefit to society. Possibly a few more criminals would confess to priest and police were a confidential confession not an option. Nonetheless, the vast majority would likely either not confess, or find a work around. As a result the sacrament does hide evidence, but only evidence that it generates, that would largely be absent without the confidentiality. In example in most other Christian denominations make any confessions straight to God, who tends not to appear in court.
I know rather little about Catholic law regarding the confession, and perhaps what I'm about too argue may touch on the arguments the priest used. I don't know if one can confess to a crime one has yet to commit. I don't think so, which would mean that forgiveness could not be offered for the sin of continuing to allow an innocent person to remain in jail. However, it would have its theological support, as at least the confession could admit to the sometimes greater sin of the original crime.
Any ways.... please comment if you read anywhere what the relevant Catholic law, I'd be interested to know what it is.