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. Margo Nash your a classic lair ,you think anyone believes a word you say , I’ll post my thoughts on any forum post you write in , I’ll be right behind you any time you post another lie about our family , I don’t need anyone to tell me what to write or to whom , you scumbags started this remember that , for someone that claims to be lawyer you got to be one of the stupidest lawyers around , are you people just taught to lie do you have any morals what so ever , you defend a sociopath murderer whom you know is guilty as all hell , shame on you it’s all about the money $$ your just being paid to be the scum you are , open your page i have no problem putting my name stamp on any post i write ( stop blocking me ) you’ll never do it your to scared of people hearing the truth , why you preventing people from our side of the story , your all cowards , come on let’s debate this you coward , enjoy your jail visits remember life with our parole will stand till he’s rolled out of there…. thank you

  2. Politics of Murder first off no ones hiding under a fake name you just block any response you dislike , your a friggin lair boy you really think your good at this being a lair thing , I’ll write a post reply anywhere you post , you will not drag our family name though this issue any longer without a response from me , no ones looking for 15 mins of fame no one asked to be dragged in to this sociopaths murder , why do you hide from me you coward you scared people will hear the real truth , you write a book with lies, twisting the true facts , assumptions, an hearsay from a lady who was never even friends with the victim ( more lies ) come open a page let’s debate this an your issues, let people hear both sides , your all nothing but cowards , they still think they can bully people , as they have their whole life in Somerville, well people are not staying quiet anymore , Somerville knows ( except one st still in denial) the truth come on up there with your social readings face the truth , you don’t have what it takes , cowards hide that’s just what your doing ….this is not just noise or fake noise this is the truth , face it let’s do it…I am not writing this under the direction of anyone this is in defence of a family member who is innocent of any claim you make without evidence , if words are your evidence you suck as a lawyer ,this is in defence of our family name , you are a classic lair , I’m always available if you’d like to talk face to face , phone line , pony express anything ….people would just like to know why Artie ! Artie worked with the investigation, he gave his alibi which proved to be true , he gave his blood , hair , fingerprints , he had no wounds ,scratches , blood , wet clothing , Thats everything your client had on him an what he left in the house , O an the big one his fake robbery getting stabbed lol (Bingo) , Artie did everything the FBI an State Police asked for , he never had anything to hide , he complied with anything they needed , life for a life means just that an he’ll serve it out till his last day ….

  3. Are you really that scared to face me an the truth , why do you keep deleting me , didn’t they teach anything in law school ,youan open dialogue is always a good thing , best way to prove someone is a lair “ when they continue to hide , but there’s no hiding on social media “ your whole group of people are as guilty him ….it’ll be proven , your a failure with the truth , an your lies well they’ll just catch up one day , it’s call Karma

  4. You cowards like to throw names around when it’s signed “ Anonymous or a name you don’t recognize “ but when a name is signed on there defending a family name, you cowards run an hide with your tail up your backside , typical wouldn’t expect anything else from a bunch of coward lairs ✌️

  5. Eddie is exactly where he belongs, Shame on all of you people trying to fight to get him released, after what he put the downing family through, how can you even look yourself in the mirror, fighting to release him, so he can do it again to someone else’s family. Mass. Should have had the death penalty, then it would actually have been justice. You people raised a creepy sadistic psychopath, who was creepily and scarily obsessed with his friends mother, instead of brushing it under the rug and acting like it was no big deal you should have acted and got him the help he needed then. He deserves to rot in jail for the rest of his days, he deserves more then that. THE DOWNING FAMILY DESERVES PEACE, THAT DO NOT DESERVE TO HAVE THIS DRUDGED BACK UP AND HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE EMOTIONS OF LOOSING JANET ALL OVER AGAIN. YOU PEOPLE ARE SICK AND HAVE NO SOUL!!!!

  6. The person who had motive was the drug dealer who returned to the scene of the crime to collect his keys and was allowed to cross over the evidence, as written in past articles.


    “To this end, the defense offered the testimony of Regina Mahoney (“Mahoney”), the victim’s neighbor. Mahoney testified that on the night of the murder, Ortiz asked if he could use her phone. The trial court judge did not allow Mahoney to testify that the victim had told her that ever since the victim had thrown Ortiz out of her house in March 1995 for dealing drugs, he acted with hostility towards her and she was afraid of him. The defense also presented the testimony of Virginia Reckley (“Reckley”), the victim’s neighbor, who stated that she heard a noise from the victim’s stair area between 8:15 and 8:30 on the night of the murder. As this sound indicated the time that the victim was murdered, the defense argued that Eddie could not have committed the murder”.

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