Trial 4 on Netflix: The full story of the Sean K Ellis case and where he is now
After wrongfully spending 22 years in jail, he’s now getting married next year!!
This week Netflix released Trial 4, an eight-part true crime series which tells the shocking story of Sean K Ellis. Aged 19, Ellis was convicted of a murder he said he didn’t commit.
He was put on trial three times within the space of a year, found guilty, released, and then faced a fourth trial and the prospect of life behind bars all over again.
Here’s the full story of the Sean K Ellis case, behind Netflix true crime documentary series Trial 4, and where he is now.
Who is Sean K Ellis and what happened to him?
Trial 4 on Netflix is about Sean K. Ellis, who spent 22 years in prison after being convicted of the 1993 murder of Boston police detective, John Mulligan. Ellis was born in July 1974 and is currently 46 years old. He was put on trial three times within the space of a year, and then faced his fourth trial – which could’ve seen him back in prison for life.
In 1995 when Ellis was 19, he faced three trials for armed robbery and first-degree murder, alongside 18-year-old Terry Patterson. His first two trials ended in a hung jury, but after the third Ellis and Patterson were found guilty and sentenced to life. Ellis had no previous record or criminal history.
The murder happened in the early hours of September 26th 1993. John Mulligan was shot in the face five times whilst he was asleep in his car, parked in a store carpark. When Mulligan was found, his gun was missing and the driver’s side door was unlocked. Eye witnesses claimed they saw a black man next to the car and then saw the same man at a nearby pay phone speaking to somebody else who was stood there too. A different witness said that they had seen a car speeding away from the scene.
Six days later, two of Ellis’ cousins were murdered and Ellis’ ID was found alongside a pack of nappies in their apartment. Whilst talking to police about these deaths, Ellis explained the nappies were there as his friend Terry Patterson had driven him to the Walgreens store to buy them for his girlfriend, which happened to be around the time of Mulligan’s murder. From that, the police concluded Ellis and Patterson were the killers, and had done so, so that they could take his gun.
Evidence in the case pointed towards the murder being a hit, but Ellis’ profile is said to have fit the “usual suspects” in this sort of case. Police said they had evidence which linked Ellis to the murder, but Ellis maintained his innocence and believed he was victim to a racial conspiracy. Mulligan was also a much loved officer, so it was believed that Ellis was used as a scapegoat so that the case be quickly “solved” and dealt with.
Just months after the conviction, evidence of police misconduct came to light. Two key detectives were accused of mishandling evidence and witnesses in the case, before later pleading guilty to long-term malpractice including perjury and armed robbery. Questions were also raised about the credibility of witnesses – it was believed they were naive to think that what the police had said happened must have been true.
In December 2000, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) reversed Terry Patterson’s first-degree murder conviction, citing a conflict of interest of his trial attorney, but it took until 2006 for him to be released. It took even longer for Sean K Ellis. Ellis first requested a retrial in 1998, which was denied. He also had an appeal in 2000 denied and a second retrial motion was submitted in 2013.
It wasn’t until 2015 that his conviction was overturned by a judge who said “justice was not done”. Ellis had spent exactly 21 years, seven months and 29 days in prison.
Where is Sean Ellis now?
Trial 4 begins with Sean Ellis being released from prison in 2015. For the first three years of his life as a free man, the potential for a fourth trial loomed over him. His fourth trial was scheduled for October 2018, but in December 2018 all charges against him were finally dropped. The District Attorney said in addition to the corruption surrounding the case, eyewitness statements would now be too “foggy” over 25 years on.
Sean’s family and friends helped him when he was released, and someone at the church his mother attended set him up with somewhere to live. His friends also helped him pay to learn to drive, and he passed his test aged 41.
Sean Ellis got a job as part of a demolition crew, and later moved on to work with a charity which makes and delivers meals to people who are ill, or elderly people who cannot leave the house and collect food for themselves. In summer 2020, he was promoted to the management position of Development Associate and now works as part of the organisation’s funding and community outreach.
Since his release from prison, Sean Ellis has been living an “admirable life” according to the Justice for Sean Ellis website. He’s also done a lot of public speaking. Ellis has said he’s “never been happier or more stable” and has a wedding planned in 2021!!
A big question everyone has had, is if Sean Ellis got any sort of compensation in a settlement, for spending so much time of his life in prison for a crime it was later found he didn’t commit. So far, it doesn’t look as though he has received any money. It sounds as though he didn’t want to get involved in any more legal proceedings or entanglements, and instead wanted to move on with his life and put the whole ordeal behind him.
Trial 4 is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.