On a hot night in July 1995, Janet Downing, a 42-year-old mother of four, was brutally stabbed 98 times in her home in Somerville, a city two miles northwest of Boston. Within hours, a suspect was identified: 15-year-old Eddie O’Brien, the best friend of one of Janet’s sons.
But why Eddie? He had no prior history of criminal behavior. He was not mentally ill. He had neither motive nor opportunity to commit the crime. Others had both. Yet none of that mattered because powers far beyond his Somerville neighborhood decided that Eddie needed to be guilty.