Mass. High Court Hears Arguments For 4th Trial Of Boston Man Convicted In 1993 Cop Killing

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Sean Ellis enters a Suffolk Superior Court courtroom for his bail hearing May 12, 2015. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Sean Ellis enters a Suffolk Superior Court courtroom for his bail hearing May 12, 2015. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments Thursday on a Suffolk Superior Court judge's decision to order a new trial in the 1993 murder of a Boston police detective.

Ellis was a teenager when he was arrested for the murder of Boston Police Detective John Mulligan. Ellis was tried three times in 1995 before he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

In June, Ellis was released on bail after a judge reversed his conviction and ordered a fourth trial. She found the lead detectives in the murder investigation withheld exculpatory evidence at Ellis's last trial.

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants acknowledged Thursday it appears the detectives were trying to withhold information that could have implicated Mulligan and themselves in corrupt activities.

"They wanted to make sure that the investigation did not lead to anything that may inculpate them and I would think that if this was known at trial, the argument would be — reasonable doubt," Gants said.

Gants went on to say Ellis had no motive to kill Mulligan.

"The fact of the matter is that if one had examined all of the persons who had a motive to kill Detective Mulligan, it would have led to revelations of the corrupt scheme," he said.

Prosecutors argue that shouldn't matter.

"Despite all the motive to lie there is still no evidence that any of the corrupt detectives procured false evidence in this case," Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Paul Linn said.

The defendant and his attorneys left the high court feeling optimistic. Lawyer Rosemary Scapicchio said prosecutors showed no reason Judge Carol Ball's decision to order a new trial should be thrown out.

"They had a burden here to prove that Judge Ball's findings were clearly erroneous or not supported by the record and they just simply failed on both accounts," Scapicchio said.

And as he awaits the high court's ruling, Ellis says he's looking forward to the first Mother's Day in 22 years that he can spend with his mother.

This story was updated with the All Things Considered feature version.

This article was originally published on May 05, 2016.

This segment aired on May 5, 2016.


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Delores Handy Reporter
Delores Handy was formerly a host and reporter at WBUR.



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