Thirty-eight years is a huge portion of anyone’s life. That is how long Frederick Clay, 57, spent behind bars after conviction for a murder he did not commit. On November 12, the city of Boston agreed to pay Clay $3.1 million after it was determined a poorly run Boston Police Department investigation led to his wrongful conviction and nearly four decades in prison. It is one of the city’s largest settlements for police misconduct but one of 23 claims paid on this basis over the past five years.
In 1979, police arrested Clay, then 16, for the killing of taxi cab driver Jeffrey S. Boyajian. Clay was living with a foster family at the time. Found guilty in 1981, at age 17, and sentenced to life in prison, Clay’s conviction was thrown out in 2017.
Following his release, Clay sued the state of Massachusetts for wrongful conviction and received $1 million. This was the maximum amount permitted under Massachusetts law. The Boston settlement is in addition to that amount.
The most bizarre element of the case involved a witness hypnotized by the police to enhance his memory. The witness told police he saw three black males get into the victim’s taxi, but he could not identify them. It was only after police put him under hypnosis – a methodology now widely discredited – did he say that one of the men was Clay.
While the investigation determined that the person who shot the taxi driver was lefthanded, Clay is righthanded.
Befriended by a Software Engineer
When the teenage Clay was sent to prison, he stood just 5’4” and weighed 100 pounds. He had dropped out of school in the eighth grade.
He was soon set upon by other prisoners. As the years went by, he received fewer visits from his family. Clay eventually joined a prison church group that received visits from a local prison ministry.
Doran Dibble, a software engineer, became involved with the prison ministry through his church. He befriended Clay and came to admire the way he handled himself under these dire circumstances. For 17 years, Dibble and his wife and children made regular visits to Norfolk State Prison to see Clay. Dibble became convinced his friend was innocent.
The Path to Freedom
In 2011, the minister who had arranged for Dibble to visit Clay ran into an old friend. Lisa Kavanaugh now headed a new state program at the public defenders’ office which took on wrongful convictions. Her friend told her about the Clay case. For six years, she and her team worked to have Clay’s conviction overturned.
A Struggle Once Free
Although Clay was free, his troubles were far from over. With no education, work experience, and a 38-year employment gap, Clay depended on food stamps and funds from supporters. While Massachusetts law mandates “immediate” services and compensation for those wrongfully convicted, Clay did not receive that support.
He did eventually obtain a job through a nonprofit assisting newly released inmates. The work consisted of loading boxes at UPS, but Clay had to walk three miles back and forth since he did not drive. He was living in Lowell, which had inadequate public transportation.
Because he proved himself a hard worker, his boss later gave him another job, at a site just 15 minutes from his home. Clay now works at a metal shop precision grinding aviation parts. He lived in a sober house for some time, but Dibble helped him obtain lodging in a basement apartment with only a bedroom and bathroom, and no kitchen facilities other than a microwave. For Clay, however, just having a private bathroom was a luxury.
With his settlement money, Clay can now look forward to better accommodations and a chance to further rebuild his life.
Jail Death and Injury Law has the national structure and deep resources to get to the bottom of any police misconduct investigation. We have developed a unique process for maximizing claims and finding the culprits. If you have been a victim of long-term arrest under false pretenses, please give our attorneys a call at 866.836.4684.
We look forward to using our proven strategy to find out exactly what happened to your loved ones and to get them the justice they deserve.