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Eddie Bolden

Other Chicago Murder Exonerations with Misconduct
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On January 29, 1994, 24-year-old Derrick Frazier, his 25-year-old brother, Clifford, and an acquaintance, 23-year-old Irving Clayton, drove in three separate cars to J&J’s Fish Store at 64th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue to sell two kilograms of cocaine.

At about 8 p.m., they arrived. Clifford Frazier left the cocaine in his car. He was armed with two handguns. In the restaurant, the three met with Anthony Williams, who had purchased cocaine from them in the past. Williams told Clifford Frazier he had to leave the restaurant because he was armed, so Clifford went across the street to another restaurant. From there, Clifford saw a man go into J&J’s and shake hands with Williams, Derrick Frazier and Clayton. Not long after, Derrick Frazier, Clayton and the man left in Derrick Frazier’s car.

About 15 minutes later, the man who had left with Derrick Frazier and Clayton approached Clifford Frazier on foot and began firing a pistol. Clifford drew one of his handguns and fired back until the gun was empty. The man then approached, picked up the empty weapon, pistol-whipped Clifford and fled on foot.

Police found Derrick Frazier and Clayton in Frazier’s car parked in the 6500 block of South Minerva Avenue, about six blocks away. Both had been fatally shot multiple times in the head.

Police interviewed Anthony Williams and determined that earlier in the day he spoke to 24-year-old Eddie Bolden, who fit Clifford Frazier’s description of the man who shot him.

Bolden, accompanied by a lawyer, voluntarily came to the police station where he was placed in a live lineup. Police said that Clifford Frazier selected Bolden, who was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and aggravated battery.

Prior to trial, a hearing was held on a defense motion to suppress Clifford Frazier’s identification of Bolden because of police misconduct. Bolden testified that he and his attorney came to the police station and were instructed to wait in a particular spot that was in a spacious open area. While they were waiting, other detectives led Clifford Frazier past Bolden and they exchanged looks, Bolden said.

Bolden said he was then taken to the lineup room, which contained five chairs. All but the first chair were already occupied. Bolden testified that he was told to sit in the empty chair and the door to the room was then closed.

Bolden testified that he then switched seats with the person sitting in the fourth chair. Bolden said he saw a witness—whom he later identified as Clifford Frazier—on the other side of the window come to the glass and point to the person sitting in the first chair. Bolden said the witness was chubby and was wearing a green sweatshirt and a gold chain with the letter “D” on it. Frazier, who was chubby, later would admit that he had such a gold chain, but could not recall if he wore it the day of the lineup.

Bolden testified that a detective who was in the room with him and the others in the lineup then put his head out the door for a moment. A detective who was outside the lineup room next stuck his head in, and said, “You, Eddie Bolden, right?”

Bolden testified that when he said nothing, the detective repeated, “Eddie Bolden, right?” and gave Bolden’s address, Bolden replied in the affirmative.

The detective in the room, according to Bolden, then told everyone to stand up. Bolden said that he could see through the glass that Frazier moved down to stand directly across from him and the detective was talking to him. Bolden said Frazier shook his head negatively and turned to walk away. The detective then grabbed Frazier, brought him back to the glass and this time, Frazier nodded his head yes, Bolden said.

The detectives denied Bolden’s account. They said Bolden was allowed to pick whatever chair he wanted and that none of the detectives asked Bolden to identify himself. Bolden’s attorney testified that the detectives promised him he could be in the viewing room with Clifford Frazier, but at the last minute, he was barred from the room. He confirmed that detectives escorted Clifford Frazier past Bolden prior to the lineup.

The motion to suppress Frazier’s identification of Bolden was denied and Bolden went to trial in Cook County Circuit Court. The prosecution sought the death penalty. The primary evidence against Bolden was Clifford Frazier’s identification of him as the gunman.

An evidence technician testified that all the shell casings found at the scene of the two shootings came from the same weapon. The analyst said he had compared the shell casings to both weapons that had been recovered—one near where Clifford Frazier was shot and the other inside J&J’s, where Clifford Frazier went after he was shot. Neither gun was the source of the casings, the analyst testified.

The defense challenged Clifford Frazier’s identification of Bolden based on his initial description of the gunman. A detective had testified that Clifford said the shooter was clean-shaven, had a light complexion and short hair and was 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall with a medium build. Bolden was 6 feet 2 inches tall, very thin, had a dark complexion, a mustache and was bald.

Bolden’s defense lawyer also called two witnesses, including the owner of J&J’s, who testified that Bolden was in the store playing a video game when the shots were fired and when Clifford Frazier came into the store bleeding from his wounds. The prosecution attacked their testimony as unreliable because both were long-time friends of Bolden.

On October 30, 1996, the jury convicted Bolden of the first-degree murders of Derrick Frazier and Irving Clayton and the attempted murder and aggravated battery of Clifford Frazier. The jury declined to impose the death penalty and Bolden was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus a consecutive term of 30 years.

Years later, after Bolden’s convictions were upheld on appeal, a private investigator, Susan Carlson, became convinced of his innocence and began reinvestigating the case. She located three witnesses who were in the seafood restaurant—none of whom had ever met Bolden before and none of whom were called to testify by Bolden’s defense attorney at trial.

In 2012, a post-conviction motion seeking a new trial was filed on Bolden’s behalf claiming that his trial defense attorney had failed to provide an adequate defense by failing to call the three alibi witnesses. The motion also said the defense lawyer should have sought to dismiss the indictment prior to trial because police had recovered the two handguns from Clifford Frazier, but both were destroyed before the defense could perform independent ballistic tests.

The trial court judge dismissed the motion, but in 2014, the Illinois Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing.

“Bolden made a substantial showing that his trial counsel committed unprofessional errors by failing to move to dismiss the indictment after police destroyed evidence that defense counsel requested in discovery, and when he failed to contact an alibi witness,” the court held. “In light of the extremely thin case for the prosecution, based solely on the identification testimony of a single witness who did not know Bolden, and whose initial description of the shooter did not closely match Bolden’s appearance, we find that Bolden has substantially shown that he suffered prejudice due to trial counsel’s errors.”

At the subsequent hearing, the three alibi witnesses all testified that at the time of the shooting, Bolden was playing a video game in J&J’s Fish Store.

In January 2016, a little more than two years after private investigator Carlson died from an asthma attack, Cook County Circuit Judge Alfredo Maldonado granted Bolden a new trial. The judge rejected the claim concerning the pre-trial destruction of the weapons, but found that one of the three witnesses, Todd Henderson, who said Bolden was inside the restaurant playing a video game, was “entirely credible and unimpeached.”

Judge Maldonado ruled that Bolden’s trial defense attorney had provided an inadequate legal defense by not calling the alibi witness and that because the prosecution’s evidence was weak, it was likely that Bolden would have been acquitted if Henderson had testified. The judge said the other two alibi witnesses were inconsistent in their accounts of how they came to be in the restaurant and so their testimony—though supportive of Bolden—was not as strong as Henderson’s.

On April 19, 2016, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges and Bolden was released after spending more than 22 years in custody. Bolden was subsequently granted a certificate of innocence and awarded $220,700 in state compensation.. In January 2017, he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/22/2016
Last Updated: 10/7/2017
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Attempted Murder, Assault
Reported Crime Date:1994
Convicted:1996
Exonerated:2016
Sentence:Life without parole
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:24
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No