Judge To Rule Soon On Possible 4th Trial For Man Convicted Of Killing Boston Officer

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A Dorchester man convicted of killing a Boston police detective 22 years ago may soon hear whether he will get a retrial.

Sean Ellis was tried three times in 1995. The first two trials ended with hung juries; the third resulted in a first-degree murder conviction.

Ellis is now asking for a fourth trial based on evidence his attorneys say was withheld during the initial trials.

Defense Says New Evidence Casts Doubt On Ellis Conviction

Detective John Mulligan was in his car, working a detail outside a Roslindale Walgreens in 1993 when he was shot five times in the face. The city's then-police commissioner, Bill Bratton, said it was an "execution-style murder."

Ellis was 19 when he was charged in the killing. Police contend he shot the officer to get his gun as a trophy.

Rosemary Scapicchio, the appellate defense attorney, said during a hearing Thursday that Ellis deserves a new trial because exculpatory evidence was withheld back then.

"We may have had pieces of the puzzle, but we didn't have a way to thread them all together," Scapicchio said.

The two attorneys who represented Ellis in the 1995 trials testified at earlier hearings on the motion for a new trial that they never saw key evidence that would have changed the way they presented the case. But, Paul Linn, a Suffolk County assistant district attorney, said the information was passed on to them.

"We're simply saying that it's been 20 years since this trial," Linn said in court Thursday. "It's entirely possible they don't remember it."

There is also the matter of an FBI investigation of criminal activity by the two lead detectives who investigated Mulligan's murder, and of their involvement with Mulligan in criminal activity.

The two detectives, Kenneth Acerra and Walter Robinson, pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and served time in prison.

Linn said this information is not new, however.

"The SJC [Supreme Judicial Court] looked at these federal indictments on first motion for trial and on direct appeal, and there's really nothing that's come to light despite this whole process since then," Linn said.

But Scapicchio challenged that assertion.

"The problem with that is that they didn't have access to the grand jury minutes that we now have access to, and they didn't have access to the anti-corruption trial that shows that Mulligan was robbing drug dealers with Robinson back then," she said. "That connects them together."

Judge Carol Ball has taken the case under advisement and is expected to hand down her decision on Ellis' motion for a fourth trial next month.

At the hearing, Ball said that in today's Boston, an officer's colleagues, who were close friends, would not be allowed to be involved in an investigation of his murder. It's an entirely different era in policing in Boston, she said.

This article was originally published on April 10, 2015.

This segment aired on April 10, 2015.


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



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