Justice for Sean Ellis

Sean K. Ellis spent nearly 22 years in prison for the 1993 murder of Boston Detective John Mulligan. He steadfastly maintained his innocence, and in 2015 his conviction was overturned - a ruling unanimously upheld in 2016 by the Mass. SJC. Yet he is facing a retrial in spring '18 on the same charge.

9/9/16 Mass. SJC Ruling

On September 9, 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously upheld Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol Ball's May 2015 ruling to reverse Sean Ellis's 1995 murder and robbery convictions and grant him a retrial. The court largely based its decision on newly discovered evidence that victim John Mulligan was engaged in criminal conduct (a scheme of drug dealer robberies based on falsified search warrants) with three investigators of his homicide:  Dets. Kenneth Acerra, Walter Robinson, and John Brazil.

SJC Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, who authored the opinion, concurred with Judge Ball's finding that:

"...Robinson, Acerra, and Brazil 'were involved in nearly every aspect of the homicide investigation' that resulted in the defendant's prosecution."

Referring to the SJC's earlier denial of Ellis's first Motion for a New Trial (submitted in 1998), the chief justice wrote:

"We did not know at that time that [Dets. Acerra, Robinson, and Brazil] had been engaged with the victim in criminal acts of police misconduct as recently as seventeen days before the victim's murder. The complicity of the victim in the detectives' malfeasance fundamentally changes the significance of the detectives' corruption with respect to their investigation of the victim's murder.

"...[W]ith the victim's complicity, these detectives would likely fear that a prolonged and comprehensive investigation of the victim's murder would uncover leads that might reveal their own criminal corruption. They, therefore, had a powerful incentive to prevent a prolonged or comprehensive investigation, and to discourage or thwart any investigation of leads that might reveal the victim's corrupt acts."

Chief Justice Gants concluded:

"When we consider the newly discovered evidence together with the totality of the evidence presented at trial, we conclude that, in the unusual circumstances of this case, the judge did not abuse her discretion in determining that the newly discovered evidence 'would have been a real factor in the jury's deliberations' and that a new trial is required for justice to be done."

 

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's ruling on the Ellis case, September 9, 2017:

Free at last, June 3, 2015. Sean Ellis leaves Boston's Suffolk Superior Court holding his mother, Mary's, hand.  Arrested at age 19,  he spent more than half his life in prison for a crime he maintains he did not commit.  (Getty Images)

Free at last, June 3, 2015. Sean Ellis leaves Boston's Suffolk Superior Court holding his mother, Mary's, hand.  Arrested at age 19,  he spent more than half his life in prison for a crime he maintains he did not commit.  (Getty Images)

Copyright 2013-17 Elaine A. Murphy