Frederick Clay, whose story is the subject of the first episode of the Mass Exoneration Podcast, was convicted of the brutal 1979 Boston murder of my brother-in-law, Jeffrey Boyajian. My husband Jerry (Jeffrey's younger brother), along with other members of the family, closely followed the investigation and trial; when the sentence was pronounced, they truly believed that justice had been served. Fred spent the next 38 years in a maximum security prison.
There was just one problem...Fred was innocent.
Corruption, incompetence, poor judgement, possible racial bias, and insufficiently understood/poorly applied science -- all these elements had combined in the methodology used during the investigation & trial. The results were enough to convince the jury (and Jeffrey's family) that Fred had killed Jeffrey in cold blood, and should receive a life sentence with no possibility of parole. Fred would spend the next several decades in pursuit of a legal ruling that would end the nightmare of his incarceration, and allow him to clear his name.
That ruling did not come until 2017. In the final months leading up to it, as the original investigation and trial transcripts were closely re-examined by the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Suffolk DA's office, we were horrified and heartbroken to finally learn the extent of the miscarriage of justice. Instead of one victim of this senseless crime, there had in fact been two: Jeffrey lost his life, but in a very real way so did Fred, who should never even have been a suspect in, let alone convicted of, Jeffrey's death. When we stood in court at the final hearing last summer, it was in full support of Fred's exoneration, and August 8th will forever be etched in our hearts, as "Exoneration Day".
The Mass Exoneration podcast gives those involved in wrongful conviction cases a chance to share their experiences in their own words. Jerry and I were honored to participate in the making of the first episode, which focuses on Frederick Clay. You'll hear a little bit from us, but really this episode is Fred's story, and he's the one best suited to tell it. His innate grace and compassion humble us, and serve to remind us all that every human being is, first and foremost, a person, deserving of dignity, respect, and forgiveness, regardless of all else.
Justice demands something of every citizen: our participation. So, I sincerely hope you'll subscribe, not just to Fred's episode, but to the four additional stories in the series (a new episode to be released every two weeks). These stories should spark some hard thinking, and hopefully discussion, about how, together, we might finally achieve that promised "and justice for all".