"Rather than succumb to the negative pressures of this penal setting, I continuously work to prove my innocence and to better myself."
Sean's incarceration 1993-2015
In his near-twenty-two years of incarceration, Ellis was a model prisoner, rising in status through the Massachusetts correctional system and earning certification as a paralegal via a correspondence course. At medium-security MCI Norfolk, he was one of a select group of inmates trained to counsel at-risk youth.
Letter from Prison
In fall 2013 Sean Ellis sent letters to the Urban League, NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union, and a dozen other social justice and legal organizations, asking their help in "bringing attention and a voice" to rectify his wrongful conviction for the 1993 murder of Boston Detective John Mulligan. Here is the text of that letter:
My name is Sean K. Ellis. I am currently incarcerated at MCI-Norfolk, serving a natural life sentence for a crime I did not commit. Since my arrest, I have dedicated myself to proving my innocence. My attorney and my family have been instrumental in this endeavor. For the last 10 years, my attorney, Rosemary Scapicchio, has not only been my representative, she has been integral in uncovering the hidden truths about the elements of my case and who may have killed the victim, [Det.] John J. Mulligan. I did not do it!
I am a 39-year-old native of Boston, Massachusetts. I was schooled in the Needham Public School system until transferring to Dorchester High where I eventually graduated. I am the father of a beautiful young lady name Tatianna. Unfortunately, I lost my father in December and my mother is getting older seemingly fast.
While growing up, I had a few run-ins with the law. However, this is my first and only incarceration. Since being incarcerated I have invested in my growth and development as a human being by participating in many diverse programs such as: Intro to Spectrum, Menswork, Health Awareness, Four Phases of Alternatives to Violence Project, Success in Leadership and Communication in Speech Craft, Post Grad Math Skills, Jericho Circle and Jericho Circle Intensive (where I continue to be a facilitator/Circle Guide). I am on the Board of Directors of Second Thoughts Inc. (an inmate-run program at MCI-Norfolk), and I am also an active member who takes part in counseling troubled youth.
Furthermore, I am one of five elected men who comprise the Executive Board of the Norfolk Inmate Council. As a member of the Executive Board, my function is to meet with the superintendent and his administration to find viable solutions to the problems and issues that plague the population and facility. Overall, the Executive Board helps to maintain harmony amongst the staff and inmates. Lastly, I have obtained my Paralegal Diploma from the Blackstone Career Institute. Rather than succumb to the negative pressures of this penal setting, I continuously work to prove my innocence and to better myself. I only mention these accomplishments as a testament of who I am as a person.
I am the victim of a gross injustice! The Boston Police Department has chosen to deny public records requests in favor of covering up the real evidence in my case and concealing the unscrupulous activities of rogue/dirty cops who manufactured the evidence against me.
Detectives that investigated my case...Kenneth Acerra and Walter Robinson, have pled guilty to public corruption charges in federal court. A third detective, John Brazil, avoided prosecution by cooperating with federal authorities. All three of these detectives were responsible for producing the only evidence presented against me at trial. The integrity of this investigation was compromised from the very start with the involvement of Detective John Brazil and his involving both Detectives Acerra and Robinson -- two non-homicide detectives. In fact, ironically, it was Detective Acerra's niece that identified my photograph from a photo array, only after speaking privately with him and Detective Robinson. This happened on the heels of selecting two photographs of different people.
Attorney Scapicchio has tirelessly worked to uncover other substantial evidence that further highlights this injustice. Her work has culminated into the filing of a motion for new trial with an argument of Actual Innocence being presented. Aside from the new trial motion, Attorney Scapicchio has filed a civil lawsuit against the Boston Police Department and the City of Boston seeking the production of documents/evidence relevant to proving my innocence. I am requesting that [you] join on with this endeavor.
Apart from the civil lawsuit, I still need your help.... in bringing attention and a voice to this injustice. I believe that my attorney, my family and I would benefit from having your support...Will you stand with us? Please do not sit quietly when your voice can help free an innocent man!
You can contact my attorney if you have any questions about my case, and/or if you are interested in learning what you can do to help...
Thank you for your time and attention on this very important matter.
Sean K. Ellis
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FOLLOW UP: A Boston-based petition requesting a new, fair trial for Sean Ellis garnered more than 5,000 signatures.
EPILOGUE: On May 5, 2015, Sean Ellis's murder and armed robbery convictions were overturned in Suffolk Superior Court by Judge Carol S. Ball, who ruled that "justice was not done" due to Brady violations by Suffolk County prosecutors and the bias of three investigating detectives on the Mulligan homicide task force who were later found (through federal grand jury testimony) to have been partners in crime with Mulligan in an ongoing scheme of falsifying search warrants and robbing drug dealers of drugs and money.
One June 3, 2015, Ellis was released on $50,000 bail (raised by his family in a grassroots effort) with the requirement that he wear a GPS monitoring device.
In June 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously upheld Judge Ball's ruling to overturn Ellis's convictions. Chief Justice Ralph Gants, who authored the court's opinion, termed the new knowledge of crimes committed by the three investigating detectives -- in league with victim John Mulligan -- "a game changer."
Now 43, Ellis is employed full time and is enjoying spending time with his family and girlfriend, as he readjusts to civilian life after being incarcerated since age 19. He speaks frequently about his experiences in forums around Boston, including events sponsored by the New England Innocence Project.
Suffolk County prosecutors have announced their intention to retry Ellis commencing on October 18, 2018. It will be Ellis's fourth trial for the same crimes (his first two trials ended in mistrial, with hung juries).