Eddie Bolden Freed 20 Years After Wrongful Conviction

Eddie Bolden was freed after spending 22 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. In 1996, the then-26-year-old man was convicted of murder in the brutal deaths of Irving Clayton and Derrick Frazier. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. Although it took two decades, the 47-year-old man’s conviction was overturned, and Eddie Bolden was freed from prison.

On January 29, 1994, a burning vehicle was discovered near the intersection of 66th and Minerva in Chicago, Illinois. Authorities later determined the blaze was an attempt to hide evidence associated with the murder of two men found dead inside the car.

A medical examiner confirmed Irving Clayton, 23, and Derrick Frazier, 24, were both shot to death before they were placed inside the car and set ablaze. Clifford Frazier, who was wounded in the shooting that left his brother dead, was the only eyewitness to the heinous crime. When questioned, he identified Eddie Bolden as the culprit.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Bolden was a known member of a Chicago street gang called Gangster Disciples. Therefore, it was assumed Clayton and Frazier were killed in a drug deal gone bad.

Eddie Bolden was subsequently arrested and charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.

According to reports, Bolden was convicted solely on the testimony of Clifford Frazier, who positively identified the defendant as his attacker and the man who shot and killed Derrick and Irving. Eddie was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

ABC7 Chicago reports Bolden spent the next 20 years trying to prove his innocence.

“I just didn’t accept the life sentence. They said I had life, I didn’t say I had life. And I worked on coming home.”

Although it took two decades, Eddie Bolden was freed due in part to the efforts of private investigator Susan Carlson.

The daughter of a Princeton tennis captain, Carlson had a lucrative career as a photographer and production designer. However, the North Shore native eventually made the decision to leave the business to pursue a career as a private investigation.

As she had a degree of success assisting wrongly convicted inmates, Carlson soon built a reputation that caught the attention of Eddie Bolden. The convicted killer took a chance and contacted the investigator about his case.

Susan Carlson was intrigued with Bolden’s case and was compelled to present the documentation to her partner, former federal prosecutor Ronald Safer.

“I told her, ‘I have a full plate, I can’t do it.’ She said, ‘Just read the transcripts, and if there’s any doubt left in your mind, don’t do it.’ This was the most important case she had… She was completely convinced that he was innocent and she wouldn’t rest until this day came.”

Although she passed away in 2013, Carlson was a key figure in the campaign to have Eddie Bolden freed from prison. Amid her relentless pursuit of justice, the investigator identified three witnesses, who all testified that the convicted killer was at JJ Fish & Chicken “playing a Pac-Man arcade game at the time the shooting took place.”

Citing the new evidence and the original trial attorney’s incompetence, Judge Alfredo Maldonado overturned the murder convictions in January. Four months later, Eddie Bolden was freed.

Although prosecutors initially vowed to retry the former convict, they later announced they would no longer pursue the charges.

Cook County assistant state’s attorney Linda Walls suggests there are still doubts about the convicted killer’s innocence, as “the three additional witnesses had significant discrepancies and inconsistencies in their recollections of the night in question.” However, she conceded there was a question as to whether Bolden’s rights were violated.

Now that Eddie Bolden is free, he is hoping to spend his time getting to know his children, including his 21-year-old son, Dom, who is currently preparing for his college graduation.

[Image via Choatphotographer/Shutterstock]