The Politics of Murder: Was The Convicted Teenager, Eddie O’Brien, and In One of Boston’s Most Infamous Murder Trials Actually Innocent?

By Victoria Hewlett

When the public becomes fixated on something, we all know how quickly facts get left behind for popular rumors, prominent special-interest agendas and ideologies. Sometimes, public opinion is wrong.


That’s just what happened to Eddie O’Brien according to Margo Nash, former bar counsel and guardian ad litem in the 1995 case of a 15 year-old boy who was convicted of first degree murder. She believes he was innocent, and that a corrupted judicial system stood in the way of his fair defense. The infamous O’Brien case is currently under review by the Innocence Program who is investigating.


Eddie was charged in the mid-90s, when political fervor was ramping up against “super-predators”, a racially-charged term to refer to homicidal inner city youths.  


O’Brien was a white, Catholic teenager…and he might have been the perfect target for a political win for the prosecution. Was there a concerted effort to ignore the evidence against Eddie O’Brien being the murderer of Janet Downing? Nash thinks so.


The Politics of Murder, Nash’s thrilling investigative book on the O’Brien case, paints the picture of a corrupted judicial system which convicted an innocent boy to advance a political agenda.


Nash’s side of the story hardly leaves any piece of evidence unaddressed. She has gone back and entirely reinvestigated the case, piecing together an over-arching political influence behind the failure of O’Brien’s defense, an important part that she says she missed the first time.
Margo explains her conviction to stick with the case and to work so tirelessly to prove Eddie’s innocence in her book:


“I have often cringed at the realization that I completely missed the big picture twenty years ago. But to be fair, the big picture took years to develop and emerge into a legible image…today, I finally understand what actually happened to Eddie O’Brien and who he has spent more than half of his life behind bars.”


Nash argues that the person who tried the case against Eddie O’Brien, the county’s District Attorney at the time, had political motives to use Eddie’s case to reform juvenile criminal justice law and put himself into a position to run for Attorney General. She has done her homework and provided incredible evidence and a compelling narrative to tell that side of the story.


Even at the time that Eddie’s case was decided, controversy was brewing over the apparent lack of investigation into the brother-in-law of Janet Downing. An article in the editorial South Coast Today, posted in 1997, commented:
“His parents’ anger with the verdict was directed at investigators who they said did not seriously investigate Janet Downing’s brother-in-law whom she apparently had evicted from her house several months before the crime.” (


Those protests from O’Brien’s parents, then just another element of the great public spectacle the case turned out to be, are explored in-depth in Nash’s Politics of Murder. In fact, she lays out exactly how she believes corruption within the judicial system led to evidence being systematically ignored and Eddie O’Brien being targeted and framed.


Is it true? Margo Nash certainly outlines a well-investigated and well thought-out theory as to why she thinks it is. She also holds with her the testimony of several who worked closely on the case who confirmed that they believed in Eddie’s innocence.  


Enough evidence has been brought forward to put Eddie’s case on the list for the Innocence Program, an organization which works to appeal wrongful conviction cases and get innocent people out of prison.  


Nash’s work to uncover the truth behind this case picks apart the legal evidence and proceedings, but it goes even further. This book paints the image of the context in which this trial happened to show readers just what happened to fool the Boston public into thinking an innocent 15-year-old boy was guilty of murder.


Whether you buy the story she uncovered or not, Nash’s masterful feat of weaving together this story should give pause to anyone who trusts the integrity of the judicial system. Nash shows just how easily the social networks of powerful people within a local court system can lead to an influential person manipulating the process and infringing on the rights of ordinary Americans.  


From biased appointments to the court to political intimidation to key figures on the case or to general masking of the real story with rhetorical games and legal tricks, Nash shows just how realistic political corruption in the court is.


The central argument of The Politics of Murder depends on the former Middlesex District Attorney, Thomas J. Reilly, former governor of Massachusetts, William Weld, and their political aspirations to run for Attorney General and US Senator.  


Imagine being in a particular political moment when the public was in a frenzy over perceived danger in the streets from young, soulless, homicidal “super-predators” who threatened to unweave the very fabric of society. Imagine being in a moment in which the pressure was on to change policy so certain juveniles would be tried as adults in the criminal justice system.


Now imagine the opportunity Thomas J. Reilly and William Weld, both politicians aspiring for a higher office, saw in the Eddie O’Brien case. Here was a young 15-year-old who looked like he may be guilty of a sadistic crime. Try and convict this kid, use it as political leverage to make the juvenile system stricter and win political points with your constituents that will turn into votes later.


And when it looked like that kid might not have been guilty after all, when evidence to the contrary comes up, they just had to use their respective powers to influence to case to their advantage.


Thomas Reilly, in an unprecedented move to personally try a case as District Attorney, took on the Eddie O’Brien case himself. With the help of the O’Brien case, Governor Weld would sign into law a Bill that required anyone aged 14, 15 or 16 charged with murder to be tried as an adult. Governor Weld would also nominate a key figure in the O’Brien case that Nash argues was biased against the defendant.  


It wasn’t hard to see the interests merging, the political actions taken as a result of the case, and just how the conviction of Eddie O’Brien would be convenient for a number of powerful people.  


It looks like Eddie O’Brien is going to get another chance to make his case and prove his innocence. Margo Nash believes so much in O’Brien’s innocence that she put together a comprehensive image of political corruption in the legal system.


O’Brien has spent over 21 years in jail for a crime that he and others close to him maintain he didn’t commit. His trial was headed by a prosecution team who was great at playing the legal system, but Margo Nash has unearthed new evidence that warrants a full investigation on the decades-old case.


Margo speaks highly of Eddie O’Brien, a man who she calls “a good man, a spiritual man, a forgiving man”. She says she has kept in touch with the 35-year old and his parents, and that he helped her piece together the puzzle of the O’Brien case in order to write this book.


In the opening pages of The Politics of Murder, she introduces his case as one which “would turn out to be the catalyst which changed juvenile law in Massachusetts and sent children to adult prisons for the rest of their natural lives. It also catapulted political careers and perverted the orderly administration of justice that he (Eddie), his parents, and I, until then, all very much believed in.”


The Politics of Murder very much could be the first time that the story of Eddie O’Brien, from the fateful night that led to his conviction through the legal proceedings that followed, has been told in all honesty. His story swept the news in the mid-1990s, but it’s likely that the public by-and-large was seeing only half of the story.


Was everyone from the public to the defense team blinded by a thin veil hiding deep corruption? Has Eddie O’Brien, charged at 15 years old, spent 21 years in prison as an innocent man and a victim of political ambition?
You can read Margo Nash’s book for yourself and decide. The Politics of Murder is now available for on Wild Blue Press’s website here. ( and on


76 thoughts on “The Politics of Murder: Was The Convicted Teenager, Eddie O’Brien, and In One of Boston’s Most Infamous Murder Trials Actually Innocent?”

  1. You morons keep trying , your lies have been proven to be all baseless , your accusations are nothing but trash , you’ve been denied by every court appeal, every innocent project program has told you to take a hike , Eddie O’Brien is an will always be the murderer , he’s nothing but a coward ,evidence has always shown
    & proven he’s the coward who murdered an innocent mother , both his mother & father both knew from that very night he did it , wonder who went an got all the evidence he left in the neighbors yard , where he washed himself off after his brutal crime proven in court , ( only one person talked with Eddie after he committed this crime , hmmm ) Regina Mahoney is nothing but a neighborhood crackpot , please read any of her post on Facebook , she’s a fruitcake ! …..good luck , please at less put your real name on your post next time coward ! Next …..

  2. It’s a well known fact that the victim was having issues with her sister’s boyfriend who was an alleged drug dealer. Was he also a drug informant? A local paper stated that this so called drug dealer crossed the yellow tape in order to retrieve his car keys later that day after the body was discovered. If that’s true, what does that say about this case? Was he the driver of a cab parked behind the property where he earlier fled on foot, covered in blood which was also allegedly found near his cab? The prosecutor was know for his bad reputation. Cases win elections, especially exploited ones. Ask anyone who lives in Cape Fraud. There was another case involving a day care center in Malden, same prosecutor, same AG. The owner of the daycare was married to a bad cop who retaliated against her because she was a successful woman who was running a lucrative business. It was a total witch hunt which years later, justice prevailed but not soon enough. After the corrupt cabal put family members in jail, including bad cop’s wife, they were released but never was there a statement of their innocence. I believe one of two of the family members died in jail. So it would be no surprise whatsoever, to find out that this case was similar in the way an innocent person was railroaded in order to hide political corruption. It happens everyday. It’s who you know and what you can get away with around here, more than what the average person wants to comprehend. Well, I believe that way of life is going to change. If testimony from her neighbors was suppressed, that alone is cause to open this case up again and this time, have a competent team lead it. The families deserve justice as well as Eddie and so do the people of Somerville. Deanna’s case needs closer inspection as well. More dirt there, imo. Famous words of a famous lawyer, “If I put 100 witnesses on the stand, it would have ruined their lives”. Many of those witnesses were cops.

    1. Slim shady if that’s ya real you have no clue about I was the victim brother-in-law. You and that rat pack on Boston st and that loud mouth lier Gina Mahoney should at least try and get ya shit together. And why hide behind a fake name not like me my name is Artie Ortiz.

    2. Also you can listen to the interview I had on the pod cast called true crime garage to come out any day I have no reason to hide behind a fake name you don’t have the balls to say ya real just keep lieing 😂

  3. Come on you got to have better than that , it took you 25 years to think of that , Slim you sound like a bit shady of a character , have you been keeping up to date with your meds , you Clown your all over the place you sound like a FB lawyer LMAO , say Hi to Eddie on your next lock-up , you sound like a frequent client of MCI ….✌️

  4. THERE IS NO STATUTE OF LIMITATION FOR MURDER. Same high profile case, lawyer, female victim, injuries, drug dealer exposed, naive fall guy set up to take the fall so criminals can avoid justice. Same witness suppression and intimidation, political ambitions of prosecutors at the cost of innocent lives and their families. Fall guys were in the wrong place at the same time, same prison, same sentence. Continue to pursue The Innocent Project until you get results.

    1. You cowards can’t even use ya real so witch O’Brien are you can’t be Eddie. Ask me and I will answer any questions you have I don’t hide and I will never from ray pack of lies and Gina Mahoney

  5. As long as I alive iam willing to talk to real people about the case so just keep up all the lies Boston st. Artie

  6. 👍 you tell’em Artie these frigging cowards like to toss innocent names around than they run an hide , only the guilty run an hide , where’s Eddie hide in his cell , guilty ? love the names Slim shady , Krystal Ball , here come da’ judge , Judge of the people , some real “ thug “ names coming from some real scum people , seriously like who thinks of those names ex-cons , in Charlestown people use their true names it’s calked “ Honor “ something you’ll never have Eddie !

  7. He did it. I was in jail with this kid when he first went in. He shouldn’t have been in prison at that age with us adult inmates. This kid was just that a scared kid. Shit he stabbed her over 90 times and the job they gave him in the kitchen was with butcher knife chopping salad( morons). This kid should’ve gotten some kind of homicide charge but not murder 1 even though it required that charge by law. He was a kid he should’ve did some serious time in mental institution then one day paid for his crime. Now with that being said that scumbag district attorney thomas j Reilly was and is corrupt. He rail roaded that poor kid instead of getting him help and true justice . He used this case to get elected attorney general. For those of you that say I’m full of shit, ok before this case he took me a very good student and highschool athlete and a few of my family members and tried to accuse us of a horrendous crime we had nothing to do with. All on the word of a coke dealer looking at over 90 years for drug possession. He tried to use us to get to be attorney general but he failed cause we had nothing to do with it like we said. I’d like to say they totally screwed Edward cause they didn’t do him or either family any real justice. But he did this ,but he should’ve gotten help and one day faced it like a man not a 15/16 year old child that happened to commit a hideous crime . He wasnt mentally or emotionally developed enough to comprehend all of what happened and that he had caused. Eddie I’m glad noone seriously hurt you in prison kid but one day you have to admit and face your demon.

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