BOSTON (CBS) – A man who spent 36 years in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit became a free man Tuesday.
Fred Clay was convicted of first-degree murder in 1981 for the 1979 shooting death of 28-year-old cab driver Jeffrey Boyajian in Roslindale. Clay was 16 years old at the time of the murder.
The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office took another look at the case, determined Clay did not receive a fair trial and vacated the conviction.
“This evidence may not have risen in the minds of those jurors in 1981 to proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley.
“He’s entitled to a new trial. I do not believe that justice would be served by re-trying Mr. Clay based on that the evidence I know and the circumstances under which it was gathered.”
Clay, now 53, left a Suffolk Superior Courtroom Tuesday to tears and hugs from friends.
“There’s a lot of life I need to make up on, to make up for and a lot of things I need to learn,” he told reporters.
“I want to go visit my mother’s grave, but I don’t think that’s possible right now. But I want to spend some time with my friends and just enjoy the moment, have lunch. I haven’t had (a) steak and cheese sub in quite awhile.”
Conley stopped short of saying Clay is innocent, but he conceded that techniques used with witnesses in the 1981 trial were completely unjust and, therefore, he should not have been in prison all this time.
Clay walked outside with his hands in the air instead of in cuffs. His first meal? Someone promptly handed him the steak and cheese sub he had requested.
“I haven’t had a steak and cheese since ’78. Been a longtime!”
The victim’s brother, Jerry Boyajian, supports the decision to free Clay.
“I’ve been convinced by the D.A.’s evidence that there’s reasonable doubt that Fred Clay did not commit the crime. And the fact that he spent two-thirds of his life behind bars for something he didn’t do is just horrific. I can’t image what it’s been like for him. I think justice has been done for him.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports