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Man freed after nearly 38 years in prison gets $1 million from state

Frederick Clay (center) outside Suffolk Superior Court in Boston in 2017 after his 1981 conviction was vacated.
Frederick Clay (center) outside Suffolk Superior Court in Boston in 2017 after his 1981 conviction was vacated. (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File/2017)

The state has agreed to pay $1 million, the maximum allowed by law, to a man who was jailed two weeks after his 16th birthday and spent nearly 38 years in prison for a murder in Roslindale that the state attorney general’s office concluded he did not commit.

A judge approved the settlement for Frederick Clay, 55, late last month in Suffolk Superior Court as part of an agreement that wipes out his criminal record and entitles him to free tuition at any community college or state university, records show.

The settlement was reached on Jan. 29 after a review of the case revealed that Clay “was clearly innocent,” a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement.

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“We wish Mr. Clay the very best as he moves forward,” spokeswoman Margaret Quackenbush said.

Clay, a machinist who lives in Lowell, didn’t respond to a request for comment made through his lawyer, Jeffrey Harris. Harris declined to comment.

Clay was set free in August 2017 after his conviction for first-degree murder was vacated in the shooting death of Jeffrey Boyajian, 28, who was killed during a robbery on Nov. 16, 1979.

Suffolk County prosecutors reviewed the case and decided not to retry Clay for the crime after finding problems with the original government witnesses.

One witness, a cabdriver, identified Clay as the suspect after being hypnotized by police, a practice that has been discredited. An investigation also found that the shooter was lefthanded — and that Clay is righthanded.

Last June, Clay sued the state under a law that provides compensation up to $1 million to people who were incarcerated as a result of a wrongful felony conviction.

When the law was enacted in 2004 , the maximum payout was $500,000, but that amount was increased to $1 million last April.

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The first plaintiff to receive the $1 million sum was Kevin O’Loughlin , who sued the state after his conviction for the rape of an 11-year-old girl in Framingham was vacated. A jury awarded O’Loughlin $5 million in damages last year, but under the cap, he received $1 million plus legal fees, said his lawyer, Michael Kendall. O’Loughlin settled with the city of Framingham separately for $900,000.

Since the law went into effect, about 80 people have sought compensation, according to Healey’s office. About 20 cases are pending.

State Senator Patricia Jehlen, a Somerville Democrat, said the process moves too slowly. Last month, she filed legislation that would put money into the hands of the wrongfully convicted much sooner.

“People need to have immediate help,” Jehlen said.

Under the proposal, probation officials would provide $5,000 to people who have been unjustly incarcerated as soon as they are released from prison. Once they file a lawsuit, they could seek an additional $15,000, according to the bill.


Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.