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.

WEBSITE REFERENCES

Unless otherwise indicated, newspaper articles are from the Boston Globe.

Murder and Investigation

"A message" -- “A break in the thin blue line,” Mike Barnicle, September 30, 1993.

"There were some elements..." -- “City police detective slain execution style,” Toni Locy and Linda Gorov, September 27, 1993.

"problem officer" -- "A veteran known for toughness and, lately, for trouble,” Sean P. Murphy, September 27, 1993.

"one of a handful of officers..." -- “City police detective slain execution style,” Toni Locy and Linda Gorov, September 27, 1993.

"Boston detectives Kenneth Acerra and his partner, Walter Robinson....pleaded guilty..." -- “Ex-police detectives plead guilty,” Patricia Nealon, March 7, 1998.

 

Other background articles:

 

On John Mulligan's policing:

“Wave of abuse claims laid to a few officers,” Sean P. Murphy, October 4, 1992.

"Boston force is targeting 71 'problem' police, Sean P. Murphy, December 9, 1992.

 "Site of murder, some are uneasy," Efrain Hernandez Jr., September 28, 1993.

"As one officer falls, others rise, salute, Lynda Gorov, September 27, 1993.

“2000 Police mourn one of their own,” John Ellement and Paul Langner, October 2, 1993.

 

On past Boston Police misconduct hanging over the Mulligan case:

 “Highlights of the [St. James Commission] report,” January 15, 1992.

“Tough role awaits Bratton’s return,” Brian McGrory, January 26, 1992.

"Bratton named to head police," Brian McGrory, June 30, 1993.

"The new commissioner," Boston Globe editorial, June 30, 1993.

"Bratton seen as a leader in 'new school' of policing," Brian McGrory, June 30, 1993.

"Bratton, arriving with a vision, commandeers the spotlight," Brian McGrory, July 19, 1993.

"Bratton to be selling safety," Brian McGrory and John Ellement, July 1, 1993.

"Bratton talks of hopes for Boston," John Ellement, July 23, 1993.

“Martin meets top city police, sees openness, unity as crucial,” Tom Mashberg, July 28, 1993.

 “Bratton promises tight rein on unit,” Sean P. Murphy, September 16, 1992.

"A test for Commissioner Bratton,” editorial, October 2, 1993.

“Stuart errors not forgotten,” Lynda Gorov and Tom Mashberg, October 3, 1993.

"Police caught between the media and a hard place," Tom Mashberg, October 6, 1993.

 

On the Mulligan murder investigation:

"Revenge is the theme of police-slaying leads,” John Ellement and Lynda Gorov, September 28, 1993.

“Woman reportedly sought in police killing," John Ellement and Lynda Gorov, September 29, 1993.

"Police hunt car reported at scene of killing,” Lynda Gorov and John Ellement, September 29, 1993.

"Girlfriend received call loved ones fear,” Lynda Gorov, September 27, 1993.

"Reward set in officer's death," Lynda Gorov and Tom Mashberg, September 30, 1993.

"Car seized in probe of police death," Tom Mashberg and Lynda Gorov, October 3, 1993.

“Man held in slaying of officer,” John Ellement and Tom Mashberg, October 5, 1993.

"Slay suspect said to blame friend,” John Ellement and Sean P. Murphy, October 6, 1993.

“Sisters’ cousin held in police killing,” John Ellement and Sean P. Murphy, October 7, 1993.

“Handguns found in vacant lot tied to death of officer,” John Ellement, October 8, 1993.

“Mulligan probe leaves many questions unanswered,” Sean P. Murphy, October 8, 1993.

"Police say detective was killed by gun found in vacant lot," Sean P. Murphy, October 9, 1993.

"Mulligan suspect is subjected to lineup," Sean P. Murphy, October 19, 1993.

"Suspects' prints not found on gun in Mulligan case," Sean Murphy, December 28, 1993.

"Mulligan affidavit challenged, suspect never named Ellis as triggerman, lawyer says," Sean P. Murphy, November 6, 1993.

 

On suspected misconduct by Detectives Acerra and Robinson:

“Lawyer asserts Ellis ID is flawed,” Sean P. Murphy, October 29, 1993.

“Mulligan probe creates tensions,” Sean P. Murphy, November 1, 1993.

“Martin, police bickering over Mulligan case,” Frank Phillips and Sean P. Murphy, November 19, 1993.

"Suspect in "Mulligan murder case was ID'ed by witness on 2D viewing," John Ellement, December 7, 1994.

"Witnesses differ on naming of suspect, defense seeks to block identification," John Ellement, December 8, 1994.

"1st trial on track in Mulligan slaying," John Ellement, December 13, 1993.

"Mulligan slay witness said to ID wrong man," Sean P. Murphy, December 19, 1993.

“Ex-police detectives plead guilty,” Patricia Nealon, March 7, 1998.

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* * *

Trials

Sean's story to police:

Summarized from transcript of police interview of Sean Ellis, September 30 - October 1, 1993.

 

On the murder of Mulligan witness Celine Kirk, with her sister, 3 days after Mulligan's murder:

Boston Globe articles:

"Irate, Bratton defends his investigation," Lynda Gorov and Tom Mashberg, October 1, 1993.

"Source says toddler has helped police," Bob Hohler and Doris Sue Wong, October 2, 1993.

“Brockton teen-ager charged in 2 murders,” Jordana Hart and John Ellement, October 4, 1993.

"Slain women's kin say family knows Mulligan suspect," Indira A. R. Lakshmanan, October 5, 1993.

"Teen-ager arraigned in double slaying," Jordana Hart and Sean P. Murphy, October 5, 1993.

"Cries of sorrow, call for prayer punctuate funeral for 2 sisters,” Jordana Hart, October 7, 1993.

“Killer of 2 women in ’93 [Craig Hood] makes plea agreement,” John Ellement, June 20, 1995.

 

Sean's defense team

"No one saw Sean Ellis..." -- "Summations concluded, Ellis trial goes to jury, by John Ellement, January 13, 1995 (from attorney Norman Zalkind's closing statement at Ellis's first trial).

 

Star witness

"She's putty..." --  from attorney Norman Zalkind's closing statement at Ellis's first trial.

"Unknown to jurors...pills" -- from Boston Police incident report of activity at 210 Humboldt Avenue, Roxbury, in early April 1993.

 

Prosecutors' case theory

"Mulligan died because he wore a badge..." -- from transcript of Phyllis Broker's opening argument, Ellis's third trial.

 

"Prosecutors' 3 key points of evidence..."

All reporting of testimony is based on transcripts from Sean Ellis' three trials. Author's conclusions of "reasonable doubt" are based upon these transcripts, plus discovery materials including Boston Police reports and transcripts from police interviews of witnesses.

 

Testimony of Ivan Sanchez

"Unknown to jurors...out of the woods" -- this vital, exculpatory disclosure by Ivan Sanchez to Rosa, that the tall, thin man in the parking lot did NOT come out of the woods (the man she claimed was Sean Ellis), is in the transcript of Rosa Sanchez's September 26, 1993 interview by detectives at the Area E-5 station and noted in a sidebar discussion with Judge McDaniel in Ellis's first trial. Over defense attorney David Duncan's objection, McDaniel barred it from testimony, agreeing with Chief Prosecutor Phyllis Broker's interpretation of the "hearsay" rules of evidence.

 

Testimony of Joseph Saunders and Evony Chung

"The manager of Dedham Showcase Theater..." -- Mr. Tony Pungitore was poised to testify that "The Bodyguard" was not showing the night before the murder, as these witnesses claimed.

 

Testimony of Latia "Tia" Walker

"Both Headen and Chisholm gave statements..." -- from transcripts of separate police interviews of both youths in October 1993.

"Neither youth...lived to testify..." -- the July 1994 murder of Kevin (aka Kelvin) Chisholm on Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester went unreported in the Boston press. Headen's death was covered in, “Trial witness in police killing is gunned down,” David Polochanin and Michael Grunwald, October 8, 1994.

"Was the pearl-handled gun planted?" from the police transcript of the interview of Tina Erti on October 2, 1993

"Studies conducted since the Ellis verdict..." from Commonwealth vs. Sean Ellis, Defendant's Motion for a New Trial, March 1, 2013, submitted by attorney Rosemary Curran Scapicchio.

"blatant bullying and browbeating..." -- "Justice for Drumgold," Boston Globe editorial, May 17, 2003.

 

Testimony of Sean's Uncle David Murray

"Police had offered a $25,000 reward..." --"Reward set in officer's death," Lynda Gorov and Tom Mashberg, September 30, 1995.

"Sean did not know..." -- from transcript of defense cross-examination of David Murray, and from transcripts of all police interviews of Murray.

"I'm innocent, Uncle..." -- from David Murray's testimony in Ellis trials one and two.

 

What was different about Sean Ellis's third trial?

"If you ask David Murray..." from pre-trial conference at Sean Ellis's third trial; Phyllis Broker, speaking to Judge James D. McDaniel, Jr.

 

Patterson convicted

"Fingerprints was certainly a good indication he was there..." --"Patterson found guilty in murder of detective,” John Ellement, February 2, 1995.

"Trial begins for second man accused of murdering officer," John Ellement, January 27, 1995.

“Mulligan-trial witness says he saw a lookout,” John Ellement, January 28, 1995.

"Brother's testimony places Mulligan defendant at scene," Matthew Brelis, January 31, 1995.

“Suspect’s prints on Mulligan vehicle,” John Ellement, February 1, 1995.

"Patterson found guilty in murder of detective; jury renders quick decision in Mulligan's death," John Ellement, February 2, 1995.

"Jury Foreman: Evidence left no doubt about Patterson's guilt," John Ellement, February 3, 1995.

 

Conviction overturned

"Slay suspect said to blame friend," John Ellement and Sean P. Murphy, October 6, 1993.

"Mulligan affidavit challenged; suspect never named Ellis as triggerman, lawyer says," Sean P. Murphy, November 6, 1993.

"Detective's killer gets new trial; SJC says defense made key error," John Ellement, December 7, 2000.

 

Other background articles:

"Immunity deal for witness reported in Mulligan killing," Sean P. Murphy, October 22, 1993.

"Accused was suspect in cousins' murders," John Ellement, December 9, 1994.

"Jury selection nearing end in trial on detective's slaying, John Ellement, January 5, 1995 (discusses defense motion re: questioning witness Rosa Sanchez about her alleged stalker).

"Lawyer: Ellis had gun, did not shoot," John Ellement, January 6, 1995.

"Witnesses describe finding murdered police officer in car," John Ellement, January 7, 1995.

“Witness links Ellis to slaying of officer,” John Ellement, January 10, 1995.

"Mulligan case Witness:  Men parked nearby," John Ellement, January 11, 1995.

"Ellis hid guns in woman's home, girlfriend testifies," John Ellement, January 12, 1995.

“Jurors give up on Ellis murder charge,” John Ellement, January 22, 1995.

 “Vote was 9-3 to acquit Ellis of murder,” John Ellement, January 26, 1995.

"Retrial begins for man accused in officer’s slaying,” John Ellement, March 25, 1995.

“Defendants have the upper hand,” Mike Barnicle, March 23, 1995.

"Of 2 accused in detective's death, prosecutor paints Ellis as shooter," John Ellement, March 31, 1995

“2d jury quits on Ellis Verdict,” John Milne, April 2, 1995.

"Suspect's attorneys file for dismissal," May 31, 1995.

"Lawyers want judge of Ellis case, allege bias in murder trials," John Ellement, June 1, 1995.

“Judge won’t drop case against Ellis,” announcement on Metro page 19, June 10, 1995.

"Dismissal sought in 3D murder trial," August 17, 1995.

"Accused killer of officer loses bid," August 24, 1995.

"Ellis' 3D trial set to begin in officer's death," John Ellement, September 6, 1995.

"3D trial of co-defendant starts in detective's murder," John Ellement, September 8, 1995.

"Mulligan murder case goes to a 3D jury," John Ellement, September 14, 1995.

"Ellis convicted on 3D try in murder of detective," John Ellement, September 15, 1995.

“Jurors say evidence against Ellis overwhelming,” John Ellement, September 16, 1995. 

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* * *

Corrupt detectives

“Corruption probe shakes up Boston Police detective unit,” February 10, 1996.

“Drug money entrusted to officer, “Mitchell Zuckoff and Gerard O’Neill, February 17, 1996.

‘Missing raid cash forgotten, union says. Said to be in locker on detective’s leave,” Ric Kahn, February 13, 1996.

“[Boston Police Commissioner] Evans: police district subject of probe,” Matt Bai and Ric Kahn, February 11, 1996.

“A look at 3 detectives’ affidavits from ’92 reveals oddities,” Dick Lehr, February 12, 1996.

"When police break the law," Boston Globe editorial, February 13, 1996.

"Missing raid cash forgotten, union says," Ric Kahn, February 13, 1996.

 “Accused detective wants job back,” Matt Bai, February 14, 1996.

“US Attorney joins probe of detectives.” Mitchell Zuckoff and Ric Kahn, February 17, 1996.

"Drug money entrusted to officer [Acerra]," Mitchell Zuckoff and Gerard O'Neill, February 17, 1996.

"1993 charge revived in police probe," Ric Kahn, February 18, 1996. (Det. John Mulligan is revealed as having been accused of perpetrating, with Det, Walter Robinson, two separate robberies of Boston merchants in 1991.)

"Mystery lingers on drug proceed split," Matt Bai, March 2, 1996.

“Police no-shows scuttled drug cases,” Ric Kahn and Matt Bai, March 3, 1996.

"IRS joins Boston Police in tracking seized cash," Judy Rakowsky, March 6, 1996.

"2D detective disciplined at Area E," Matt Bai and Ric Kahn, April 10, 1996.  (Det. John Brazil is placed on administrative leave without pay, pending the findings of the federal probe of Boston Police corruption.)

"Police file sought in murder case,” John Milne, April 10, 1996. (Accused murderer Christopher Dix files a motion requesting access to Det. John Brazil’s administrative/personnel case file claiming Brazil lied in his police report.)

"Cocaine charge dismissed after 2 ex-detectives fail to show," John Ellement, May 29, 1996.

"Probe of hub officers near end," Stephen Kurkjian and Ric Kahn, December 18, 1996.

"Ex-Boston officer seeks to revive civil-rights case," Patricia Nealon. (Officer Adalberto Lio, who lost his bid to convict Det. Walter Robinson and others of false arrest, wants that verdict set aside based on that detective being under investigation for drug money thefts.

 “Grand jury focuses on drug raids in Area E,” Mitchell Zuckoff and Dick Lehr, January 5, 1997.

"2 City detectives indicted in thefts,” Mitchell Zuckoff and Patricia Nealon, March 11, 1997.

 “Charges have heads shaking,” Judy Rakowsky, March 11, 1997.

 “Indicted cops taint Ellis trials,” Eileen McNamara, March 12, 1997.

“When police are criminals,” Boston Globe editorial, March 13, 1997.

"Police indictments could cloud 5 cases, prosecutor warns," Patricia Nealon and John Ellement, March 12, 1997.

"Indicted detectives called arrogant and intimidating,” Mitchell Zuckoff and Dick Lehr, March 16, 1997.

"Drug charges dismissed against 4 defendants," John Ellement, March 26, 1997. (Charges are dropped because of search warrants executed by Acerra and Robinson between 1990 and 1992.)

"January trial set for hub officers," May 10, 1997.

 “Ex-police detectives plead guilty,” Patricia Nealon, March 7, 1998. (Acerra and Robinson "agree to 3-year jail terms in conspiracy, fraud probe.)

"Extortion trial witness tells of police abuses," Patricia Nealon, April 8, 1998.

"Officer admits lying on warrant forms," Patricia Nealon, April 9, 1998. (Detective John Brazil testifies in the trial of attorney Joseph Murphy that he routinely lied on search warrant applications at the behest of Acerra and Robinson.)

"Convict testifies lawyer urged him to pay police," Patricia Nealon, April 10, 1998. (Acerra and Robinson's extortion scheme).

 

On revelations of further corruption in Boston Police:

 "Police emergency in Boston" -- Boston Globe editorial, September 12, 1997.

 “James Jones wants his cash back," Dick Lehr, September 3, 1997 (money allegedly stolen by corrupt Boston police from Jones's lump-sum social security payment).

"Six years later, money reappears,” Mitchell Zuckoff, September 4, 1997.  (Area E-5 supervisor Parlon and Det. Dennis Harris (who wrote the contested affidavit claiming Terry Patterson indicated Sean was the triggerman, are implicated in missing-then-reappearing drug money.)

"A probe of the Boston Police," Boston Globe editorial, September 4, 1997 ("Each new case of police corruption...suggests a systemic breakdown of internal controls in the Boston Police Department.")

“An outside review for hub police,” Mitchell Zuckoff, September 17, 1997.

“Boston police ‘testilying’ leaves trail of injustice,” from series prepared by Gerald O’Neill, Dick Lehr, Mitchell Zuckoff; story by Mitchell Zuckoff, December 7, 1997.

“Boston police turn on one of their own,” from series prepared by Gerard O’Neill, Dick Lehr and Mitchell Zuckoff; story by Dick Lehr.

"[Boston Police Commissioner] Evans vows action on 'testilying,' Mitchell Zuckoff and Dick Lehr, December 9, 1997.

 “Police stories,” Boston Globe editorial, December 10, 1997. (Aaron Rosenthal, a former supervisor of detectives in NYC and a professor at John Jay Collage of Criminal Justice in New York, is quoted.)

"Police testilying must not be tolerated," [Harvard Law School Professor] Alan Dershowitz, December 11, 1997.

"Judge assails police, grants man new trial," Mitchell Zuckoff, December 23, 1997.

''Testilying' reporting plan set up," Mitchell Zuckoff and Gerald O'Neill, December 27, 1997.

"[Boston Police] Internal Affairs head gets transfer," William F. Doherty, February 7, 1998.

"New trial sought in 1994 murder," John Ellement, May 7, 1998 (Convicted murderer Donnell Johnson seeks retrial, the first such motion based on Boston Police detectives' corruption, including false report by Sean Ellis's main interrogator, Det. William Mahoney)

"Three Boston officers suspended," September 23, 1998 (missing drug money probe; one officer is Det. John L. Parlon of Area E-5).

 

Retrial motion 1998

"Detectives' conviction sparks move for new trial in slaying of officer," John Ellement, October 1, 1998.

 

Appeal

"Those guys...had a modus operandi..." -- "Cop Killer convict wants his fourth day in court," David Weber, Boston Herald, February 15, 2000.

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* * *

Co-defendant freed

"Lawyer cites trouble with fingerprints as evidence," Jonathan Saltzman, February 6, 2004.

"Scientist rebuts reliance on fingerprints testifies in retrial of man convicted of killing detective," John Ellement, May 18, 2004.

"SJC hears arguments on fingerprints; validity at crime scene questioned," John Ellement, September 8, 2005.

"With plea deal, man convicted in officer's slay may be freed," Jonathan Saltzman, February 8, 2006.

* * *

2013 Retrial motion

All quotes from body of 3/1/13 Motion for a New Trial for Sean Ellis, authored by attorney Rosemary Scappichio, except:

"Mulligan's involvement in illegal activities..." -- Ellis trial attorney Norman Zalkind's statement,  Appendix DD, 3/1/13 Motion for a New Trial for Sean Ellis.

"If I had been provided this exculpatory evidence..." Ibid.

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* * *

Sean's life

METCO student, Bereaved brother

Author's personal knowledge, interviews of Sean Ellis

 

Hansborough boy

Author's interviews of Sean Ellis

"a hotbed of street violence:" - Boston Globe articles: "Slayings of young climb in Boston" John Ellement, August 13, 1993; “Fear a fact of life in neighborhoods,” Howard Manly, October 10, 1993; "Wise beyond their years," Tom Mashberg, November 14, 1993; "Warrant team targets young suspects on lam," Indira A. R. Lakshmanan, January 9, 1994; "Living in crime's shadow," Mike Barnicle, January 27, 1994; "Slayings blindside region's police; 3 dead in 5 days," "Lynda Gorov and Tom Mashberg, February 6, 1994; "Police, youths agree: It's too dangerous, " Charles M. Sennott, February 10, 1994'

"Despite negative press commentary..." - Boston Globe articles“Suspects' common thread: drugs, guns, violence.” Sean P. Murphy and Dick Lehr, October 6, 1993;“Please don’t act surprised,” Mike Barnicle, October 6, 1993; "Suspects had eluded system,” Tony Locy and Dick Lehr, October 7, 1993; "Where beasts prowl the street,” Mike Barnicle, October 7, 1993; “Breakdowns, chaos plague court system, “ Toni Locy, October 9, 1993; “Ellis’ mother recalls efforts to teach respect for law,” Howard Manly, October 17, 1993 (Sean's mother disputes police description of incident involving Sean).

 

Sean today

Author's interviews of Sean Ellis

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