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Learn about the Boston murder that changed the American legal system

Author Jan Brogan tells the story of the 1976 murder of Boston native and Harvard football player Andrew Puopolo.

The cover of “The Combat Zone: Murder, Race, and Boston's Struggle for Justice”

“The Combat Zone: Murder, Race, and Boston’s Struggle for Justice” tells the story of Boston native and Harvard football player Andrew Puopolo’s 1976 murder.  

The cover of the book “The Combat Zone: Murder, Race, and Boston’s Struggle for Justice.” – Jan Brogan

“The book is really about how [the murder of Puopolo]  changed Boston, started the movement to close the Combat Zone, and how it changed criminal justice,” said author Jan Brogan.

Brogan, a Boston native, is a journalist and author whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Boston magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Forbes.

Puopolo was stabbed and killed while he and his Harvard teammates were in downtown Boston for an end-of-season celebration. All three men implicated in the stabbing were Black, and 11 out of 12 of the jurors were white. Those implicated appealed their first-degree murder convictions in part on a claim that the prosecution used peremptory challenges to exclude Blacks from the jury. Two of the three men were found not guilty on their retrial, while the third was found guilty for manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison. At the time, the case was splashed across hundreds of newspapers nationwide.

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“This case was used as one of two that founded the precedent to change [the practice of excluding jurors based on the color of their skin] both in Boston and nationally,” Brogan said. 

Brogan is making four stops on a Boston-area tour for the book, giving talks focused on the case, the city’s history, and how Puopolo’s family dealt with their loss.

Brogan’s talks are open to all, including those who have not read the book. 

“Most people say that the book really gave them a broader perspective on what the city was going through at the time and how it has evolved,” she said. 

Brogan will be at the following libraries in Massachusetts this fall:

Oct. 4, 7 p.m.: Morrill Memorial Library, Norwood

Oct. 12, 6:30 p.m.: Kingston Public Library, Kingston

Oct. 26, 7 p.m.: Hingham Public Library, Hingham

Nov. 30, 6:30 p.m.: Lynnfield Public Library, Lynnfield

“The Combat Zone: Murder, Race, and Boston’s Struggle for Justice” has been nominated for the 2021 Agatha Award for Best Non-Fiction and the 2022 Anthony Award for Best Critical or Nonfiction Work.

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