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News :: Human Rights
Black Youth Framed for a Boston Police Officer Murder - Back in Court
05 Sep 2014
An innocent man held for decades to intimidate the black population.
Sean K. Ellis.jpg
Ellis case update: Hearings on evidence dispute to be continued By Elaine A. Murphy, Special to the Dorchester Reporter
Sep. 4, 2014

Judge Carol C. Ball presided over three days of hearings in Suffolk Superior Court last week that were held to consider appellate attorney Rosemary Scapicchio’s charges that prosecutors withheld exculpatory information from defense lawyers for Sean K. Ellis, who, after two mistrials, was convicted in 1995 of the September 1993 murder of Boston Police Detective John Mulligan. Scapicchio is seeking a fourth trial for Ellis, who has consistently maintained his innocence. Assistant District Attorneys Paul Linn and Edmond Zabin argued for the Commonwealth.

Saying she would take a “broad view” of the issues in the case, Judge Ball ordered the immediate release of the Boston Police Department’s Anti-Corruption Unit’s files on Detectives Kenneth Acerra, Walter Robinson, John Brazil, and the victim, John Mulligan – files that have been unavailable to Ellis’s defense lawyers for 20 years. “Previous courts did not know what we now know, that Acerra and Robinson, who investigated Mulligan’s murder, were actively engaged in crimes and that Mulligan was tied in with them,” the judge explained.

In her retrial motion, Scapicchio brought to light 1997 federal grand jury testimony naming Mulligan a co-venturer with Acerra and Robinson in a 1993 Boston drug-dealer robbery. And the newly released files reveal a 1993 allegation that Mulligan and Robinson together robbed an Allston-Brighton drug dealer in 1991.

That the police department knew about the detectives’ misconduct and did not reveal it to defense lawyers is a constitutional violation, Scapicchio says. The issue for Ellis is whether a jury might have reached a different verdict had they been given this information. Scapicchio pointed out that Robinson and Acerra brought forward the only eyewitness to identify Ellis, teenager Rosa Sanchez, the niece of Acerra’s girlfriend.

Sanchez was at Walgreens in Roslindale the night of the murder and identified Ellis as one of two black men she saw around Mulligan’s car. Scapicchio’s skepticism of the identification process was evident in her questioning of Sgt. Detective Thomas O’Leary, who headed the Mulligan murder investigation. He was on the grill for for three days of testimony.

Acerra and Robinson drove Sanchez and her husband to homicide nine days after the murder to see if she could identify the men she saw at Walgreens. Scapicchio pointed out that Sanchez initially identified a photo of someone other than Ellis, saying, “This looks like him,” yet police did not have her sign and date the photo. O’Leary agreed with reluctance, insisting, “We did not consider it [a positive] ID,” while conceding that by today’s standards Sanchez’s selection would be considered an ID, and the photo would be signed and dated.

Sanchez then left the station with her husband and Acerra and Robinson, but within minutes was escorted back by Robinson to have another look at the photos. Asked why, O’Leary explained that Acerra overheard Rosa whisper to her husband that she actually saw the man, but purposely didn’t identify him. Shown the arrays again – with all photos in the same positions – Sanchez chose Sean Ellis right away, and this time police had her sign and date the photo.

Scapicchio’s further questioning revealed that Acerra did not disclose his personal relationship with Sanchez before the identification session. “Did Acerra tell anyone [that] ‘Sanchez is my girlfriend’s niece?’” Scapicchio asked, and O’Leary admitted the detective had not.
“In fact Acerra did not disclose it until months later,” Scapicchio stated, calling the omission “a conflict that was a distinct violation of department rules.”

Sanchez’s identification was the only evidence brought forward that linked Ellis with Mulligan’s vehicle. ADA Paul Linn maintained, “Rosa Sanchez’s ID has withstood all scrutiny.”

Scapicchio also questioned O’Leary about an inventory of the contents of Mulligan’s Ford Explorer made on the day of the murder in which all items found in the SUV’s center compartment were listed, but did not include a cell phone. Yet a week later, while the car was undergoing forensic analysis, Acerra initiated another search of the vehicle and found Mulligan’s cell phone in the center compartment.

“You mean the crime scene investigators missed it?” Scapicchio asked, and O’Leary countered, “The [D Street] crime lab people told detectives, ‘The phone was there. We saw that phone on Sunday night, but we didn’t know anyone was looking for it.’” O’Leary did not question Acerra after he found the phone, nor did he recall if anyone “went into the cell phone to see the numbers.” ADA Zabin downplayed the importance of the cell phone as evidence, saying that unlike today, when cell phones contain vital data, this was not the case back in 1993, and O’Leary agreed.

Scapicchio also questioned O’Leary about a tip relayed by Boston officer George Foley that she unearthed from FBI documents and claims police withheld from Ellis’s trial lawyers. (ADA Paul Linn disputes this claim and told Judge Ball, “The Foley report almost certainly was turned over to Norman Zalkind.”)

Foley told his supervisors that in late August 1993, Boston corrections officer Ray Armstead, Jr. told him his father, Boston Police officer Ray Armstead Sr. “had a beef” with Mulligan and plotted to kill him, saying, “Watch for it: Mulligan, shot between the eyes at Walgreens.” Mulligan was murdered exactly that way three weeks later, on September 26.

O’Leary testified that although Foley was a good detective, he was also an alcoholic with “mental illness.” “I gave his allegation no merit whatsoever,” he said. “It was so detailed it was crazy.” Ray Armstead, Jr. denied to detectives that he spoke with Foley, and when detectives questioned Foley, he “went back and forth with his story” and had “a breakdown in front of us.” Foley was stripped of his badge and gun and committed to a hospital for evaluation.

Scapicchio pointed out that 30 days later, Foley was back on the force with gun, evidently fully recovered. “To get your gun back you have to have a disciplinary hearing,” she said. O’Leary recalled no such hearing or report.

The hearings will be continued on Nov. 17. Former chief prosecutor Phyllis Broker is expected to appear, as will Ellis’s trial lawyers, Norman Zalkind and David Duncan, and three Mulligan task force investigators: the convicted Acerra and Robinson and retired Detective John Brazil, who was granted immunity for turning evidence on the two men.
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Sean K. Ellis is Innocent - Free Him!
05 Sep 2014
Click on image for a larger version

This article is excellent! You are definitely God sent! God Bless you!

If anyone is interested in helping Sean, his defense team, and family/friends bring him to JUSTICE. Please attend the following event.

Sean K. Ellis's Petition Signing for a New & Fair Trial Kickoff Event at Franklin Park (next to American Legion Highway). We will be there from 10:am until 7pm Saturday, September 13th.

There will be guest speakers, food, music provided. Unity within our communities is what we need in order to make a difference! We hope to see everyone there!

Collecting as many signatures as possible. Please feel free to join this event group on Facebook and request that your family and friends join as well.

We thank you all for your support.
Black Youth Framed
06 Sep 2014
Modified: 04:28:43 PM
Mulligan the cop 2.jpg
Sean Ellis.jpg
Lawyer cites new evidence in killing of Boston police detective

Nineteen-year-old Sean Ellis was one of two men convicted in the death of Detective John Mulligan.

BOSTON — It was a gruesome killing with a sympathetic victim: a veteran Boston police detective, shot in the face five times as he slept in his car while on security detail outside an all-night pharmacy.

Nineteen-year-old Sean Ellis was one of two men convicted of killing Detective John Mulligan to steal his gun as a “trophy.”

Two decades later, Ellis’ attorney, Rosemary Scapicchio, says she has new evidence that corrupt police officers covered up potential suspects in the crime, including a fellow police officer. She asked a judge to order a new trial for Ellis; a hearing has been scheduled for next month.

“He’s served 21 years for a crime he didn’t commit,” Scapicchio said.

Prosecutors, however, say the jury that convicted Ellis of first-degree murder had more than enough evidence, including statements from witnesses who said they saw Ellis crouching near Mulligan’s car and then speeding away in another car.

“There is not one aspect of this motion that sheds any doubt on the strong evidence that proved his guilt at trial,” said Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley.

Ellis stood trial three times before a jury convicted him in Mulligan’s slaying. The first two trials ended with hung juries.

Ellis’ co-defendant, Terry Patterson, was found guilty in a separate trial, but his conviction was later overturned. He ended up pleading guilty to manslaughter and was released from prison in 2007.

During their trials, Ellis and Patterson each accused the other of killing Mulligan.

Ellis has insisted he went to Walgreens in Boston’s Roslindale neighborhood early on Sept. 26, 1993, after his cousin requested diapers for her baby. He said he flagged down Patterson, a friend, for a ride.

One of the main allegations in the motion is that prosecutors failed to disclose that the Boston police knew Mulligan was part of a group of officers who were robbing drug dealers and other criminals.

Ellis’ attorney alleges that three weeks before he was killed, Mulligan was involved with other officers in stealing thousands of dollars from a drug dealer under the guise of a drug arrest. Based on the dealer’s allegations and other evidence, two police officers were convicted of corruption charges.

“It’s easy to make allegations about a dead man’s character and actions many years ago,” Wark said. “It’s much harder to dispute the evidence that proves Sean Ellis’ guilt.”

Scapicchio said the newly obtained evidence, contained in FBI reports, “creates a strong reasonable doubt about whether Mulligan was killed not by Ellis, but instead because of his alleged involvement in the criminal conspiracy” with other officers.

Scapicchio said FBI reports indicate that police knew that an officer had accused another officer of killing Mulligan. She also argues that the drug dealers who were robbed could have killed him.

Prosecutors dismiss the defense claims.

“This latest motion for a new trial requires us to believe that a mystery man murdered Detective Mulligan right after Sean Ellis was seen creeping around his car and right before Sean Ellis was seen speeding away from the scene,” Wark said.

Mulligan’s younger brother, Richard Mulligan, said Ellis is trying to win his freedom by besmirching his brother’s name.

“John to me was a hero,” he said. “He wasn’t crawling around in the woods on a rainy Sunday morning to shoot someone in the face to steal his gun. Not everyone is a criminal because Sean doesn’t like being in prison anymore.”
Framed -- Earlier Report from Elaine Murphy
06 Sep 2014
Click on image for a larger version

Boston JP cop headquarters.jpg
A Dorchester man serving a life sentence for a cop killing 20 years ago – a crime he says he didn’t commit – may yet have a chance for a new trial and freedom. Sean K. Ellis, arrested in 1993 at age 19, was one of two teenagers convicted of putting five bullets into the face of Boston Detective John Mulligan -- “to get his gun for a trophy,” prosecutors said. The other youth, Terry Patterson of Hyde Park, then 18, was freed from prison in 2007 after a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court discredited fingerprints that police claimed were his.

Boston defense attorney Rosemary Scapicchio, known for tackling tough post-conviction legal challenges, including the flawed first-degree murder conviction of Dorchester’s Shawn Drumgold, has submitted a retrial motion for Ellis centered on exculpatory information she has obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, evidence she claims was withheld from his trial lawyers. According to Scapicchio’s motion, the exculpatory evidence “links Mulligan to various crimes, establishes the existence of multiple third-party suspects, and reveals that some members of the Boston Police Department believed that Mulligan was actually killed by another police officer and not by a young innocent black teenager named Sean Ellis who happened to be out buying diapers.”

The story began in September 1993 with the pre-dawn assassination of the 52-year-old detective as he slept in the driver’s seat of his SUV, which was parked outside the Roslindale Walgreens he was paid to protect. Someone either fired through his partly open window or climbed into his passenger seat to make the kill. Officially branded a “problem officer” by the Boston Police Department the year prior, Mulligan had a rough policing style that churned up multiple enemies and lawsuits over his 27-year career. Investigators initially began combing his police work for individuals bent on revenge, yet within days they netted teenagers Ellis and Patterson and re-labeled the assassination a random crime of opportunity, prompted when the youths happened upon the sleeping detective and decided to steal his gun. Many observers remained skeptical about the police account: Why would teens kill a uniformed detective so brutally, in gangland style, on a motive so slim?

FBI documents unearthed and cited by Scapicchio in her motion point to Mulligan’s longstanding history of corruption, including the alleged extortion of retailers for bogus protection and the shaking down of drug dealers and prostitutes, all of which, she argues, generated multiple suspects who were never pursued. Scapicchio links the revelation of Mulligan’s history of sordid conduct with prior “evidence that Mulligan was seen arguing with a girl in his car shortly before his murder,” and concludes, “based on what we now know from the new evidence, the girl in the car is very relevant. … [and] it cannot be said with any confidence that [she] was not somehow involved in his death.”

Scapicchio’s motion also cites FBI reports that document credible tips ventured by two Boston police officers that a “named” fellow officer was responsible for Mulligan’s killing. Not only were these suspicions suppressed, she notes, but one officer was also disciplined for voicing them. A matching tip came in from a civilian who’d recently been arrested by Mulligan and his partners, complete with the name and motive of the suspected Boston officer. This tip, too, was ignored, Scapicchio writes.

Ellis’s trial lawyer, Norman Zalkind, filed a supporting affidavit with the retrial motion, enumerating 21 points of information he deems pertinent that he maintains the Commonwealth withheld from the defense and stating, “If I had been provided this exculpatory evidence prior to trial, I would have filed additional discovery motions, investigated additional suspects, investigated Mulligan and used the exculpatory evidence to raise a reasonable doubt at trial. Mulligan’s involvement in illegal activities meant that many people had motives to harm him.”

The crux of Scapicchio’s argument for a retrial rests on testimony in federal grand jury proceedings that Mulligan robbed two Commonwealth Avenue apartments leased by a Boston drug dealer three weeks before his murder, working alongside two detective friends, Kenneth Acerra and Walter Robinson. (Acerra and Robinson later pleaded guilty to more than 40 counts of such robberies and did prison time.) The relevance for Ellis is that Acerra and Robinson served on the task force investigating Mulligan’s murder. As partners in crime with Mulligan, they had a conflict of interest, Scapicchio asserts, that could well have colored their motives and calls for further scrutiny of the evidence they brought forward.

Citing legal precedent, Scapicchio further argues that although Acerra and Robinson hid their misconduct, they were “members of the prosecution team for discovery purposes...[and as such] their knowledge is imputed to the prosecution, and the exculpatory evidence should have been turned over to the defense.”

The jury never heard the full story of the widespread police corruption and its links to Mulligan and his cohorts, she repeatedly notes in her motion, and if they had, she adds, they would have doubted that Ellis and his friend carried out the crime: “Ultimately, the withheld evidence makes it impossible to say that justice was done.”

From the outset, the Mulligan murder investigation was fraught with allegations of misconduct. First, Mulligan’s cell phone, reported missing from his SUV after the murder, was “discovered” a week later in the vehicle’s center console by the aforementioned Detective Acerra in what police characterized as a second search of the vehicle. That explanation resulted in Acerra being yanked from the investigation by the chief prosecutor; he subsequently was put back on the job after his union pushed for his reinstatement.

Next, Acerra, acting with Detectives Robinson and John Brazil, brought forward a teenaged witness named Rosa Sanchez, coincidentally, the niece of Acerra’s live-in girlfriend and cousin of their child. Sanchez testified that when she stopped at Walgreens at 3 a.m. for a bar of soap on the morning of the murder, she saw an African-American man peering into the sleeping Mulligan’s car window. She identified Ellis from police photos, but it took her two tries to make the ID, according to a detective’s testimony at a pre-trial hearing called to examine the circumstances. In her first attempt, she selected another man – neither Ellis nor Patterson – and left the homicide unit. She then sat outside in Acerra’s private car with him and Robinson, and by several accounts, she was weeping. Five minutes later, she was back inside, pointing to Ellis’s photo. On this basis, his defense attorneys, Norman Zalkind and David Duncan, protested the ID as “tainted.” Nonetheless, it was admitted as evidence.

Both Sean Ellis and Terry Patterson pleaded not guilty. Patterson was convicted readily after prosecutors produced fingerprints they said were his from Mulligan’s car door. But Ellis’s conviction was hard-won. Speaking voluntarily to police, he admitted riding to Walgreens in Patterson’s car after a party, but said he only shopped for diapers and had nothing to do with the murder. Police later found a box of Luvs with their Walgreens receipt in his cousin’s apartment.

No physical evidence linked Ellis to the crime scene, and, despite Sanchez’s photo ID, and despite his attorney’s admission that he and other friends helped hide guns for Patterson, two back-to-back juries failed to conclude he was in a murderous joint venture with Patterson. A half-year later, and with no additional evidence brought to bear on the case, a third jury convicted Ellis of murder one in September 1995 and sent him to prison for life without parole.

Just five months after Ellis’s conviction, Mulligan’s friends and task force investigators Acerra and Robinson, along with their protégé, John Brazil, were exposed as having perpetrated a decade-long scheme of robberies of drug dealers and illegal immigrants based on falsified search warrants. Acerra and Robinson were ultimately stripped of their badges and pleaded guilty to federal charges; Brazil was granted immunity in exchange for his cooperation and later retired.

That admitted felons with ties to Mulligan were instrumental in convicting Ellis prompted attorneys Zalkind and Duncan to mount a retrial motion for him in 1998, but the motion was denied when the judge refused to speculate that the detectives’ corruption in drug cases transferred to a murder case, despite their extensive perjury on warrants and in court.

Now, 16 years after that failed retrial bid, Scapicchio, armed with new information, adds meat to Zalkind and Duncan’s 1998 retrial argument, maintaining that Mulligan’s criminal link with Acerra and Robinson gave the corrupt detectives a plausible motive to manufacture evidence: The intense, ongoing probe of Mulligan’s police work threatened to expose their joint crimes and double lives. Enter Rosa Sanchez, whom Acerra, Robinson, and Brazil brought forward within twelve hours of the murder and whose seemingly reluctant ID of Ellis led to his arrest and halted the investigation into other suspects.

At the time, Sanchez lived with her husband Ivan in his mother’s rundown apartment on Humboldt Avenue in Roxbury. Her transcript at Hyde Park High School shows a dismal record of failure. Five months before she became a Mulligan-case witness, an April 1993 police incident report shows a 911 medical emergency call made by Ivan Sanchez from their apartment, with Rosa subsequently rushed by ambulance to Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital having ingested an “unknown quantity” of “unknown pills.”

Was a vulnerable Rosa Sanchez manipulated by corrupt detectives, to ensure a conviction? Scapicchio wants that question revisited. Defense attorney Norman Zalkind didn’t mince words at trial. Calling the nineteen-year-old “possibly troubled,” he said, “She’s putty. She will say anything.”

Sanchez’s fortunes improved dramatically after she identified Sean Ellis. The couple was relocated, at the Commonwealth’s expense, to a garden apartment in Norwood, where Rosa enrolled in high school. (According to school records, she never attended class and was dropped from the roster.)

Scapicchio also notes that another prosecution witness had her pending drug charge dropped and $3,580 returned – money confiscated from her underwear during her arrest – after she modified her times of shopping at Walgreens in a way that buttressed Sanchez’s account.

Scapicchio also wants the Commonwealth’s ballistics evidence scrutinized anew, noting that studies completed by the National Academy of Sciences after the trials cast doubt on the reliability of “identifying tool marks” on recently manufactured bullets. Moreover, she has uncovered a police transcript showing that detectives questioned John Mulligan’s girlfriend’s roommate about a “pearl-handled .25-caliber gun” – the exact description of the purported murder weapon – two days before the weapon was found in a Dorchester field. Scapicchio is asking: How did police know about the gun? Was it Mulligan’s own? Was it planted?

By the time of Ellis’s arrest in the Mulligan case, he’d had “a few run-ins with the law,” he admits in a letter he recently sent to the Urban League, American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, and a dozen other social justice organizations, seeking their help. But he was never convicted of any crime, let alone a violent crime. For the past 20 years, he has been a model prisoner, rising in status through the system and earning certification as a legal assistant via a correspondence course. Now 39, he is one of an elite group of inmates chosen at medium-security MCI Norfolk to counsel at-risk youth.

During those 20 years Sean Ellis has continued to insist that he played no role in Mulligan’s slaying, but unless he can win a fourth jury trial – and then win the jurors over – he will likely die in prison. Will Scapicchio’s arguments, and the many troubling questions and inconsistencies in the case that she has laid bare, be enough to grant Sean Ellis a fourth trial?

That is the question for Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol S. Ball.

Elaine A. Murphy, a retired publications editor and former Boston school teacher, knew Sean Ellis in the 1980s when he was a Metco student and friend of her son’s in Needham’s Mitchell Elementary School. Since learning of Ellis’s conviction in 1995, she has closely followed his case and recently set up a website,

See - The Hurricane - Dylan Cover-

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