Trial 4 True Story: What Happened Next To Sean Ellis

Here’s what happened to Sean Ellis after the events of Netflix’s Trial 4. Divided into eight episodes, the docuseries centers on corruption in the Boston Police Department and how a 19-year-old was used as a scapegoat for a cop’s murder.

On September 26, 1993, Boston police officer John Mulligan was murdered execution-style in his vehicle. Three days later, Ellis was questioned in relation to a double-murder involving the death of his cousin, and inadvertently placed himself at the scene of the cop killing outside a Walgreen’s store. Trial 4 explains the sociopolitical circumstances that led to Ellis being targeted as the prime suspect, and suggests that he was framed to cover up Mulligan’s questionable past, along with the illegal activities of detectives Kenneth Acerra, Walter Robinson, and John Brazil. After two mistrials, Ellis was convicted of murder in 1995 and received a life sentence.

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The final episodes of Trial 4 focus on Ellis’ relationship with defense attorney Rosemary Scappichio, who took on his case as part of The Innocence Project. In 2015, the Netflix subject was released on bail due to the questionable tactics used by police during the initial investigation, as detailed in 1996 by The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team. Trial 4 follows Ellis as he prepares for his fourth trial, and culminates with interim Suffolk County District Attorney John Pappas dropping all charges in 2018, presumably to avoid a thorough internal affairs investigation by incoming District Attorney Rachael Rollins. The Netflix docuseries ends by revealing that Ellis works at Community Servings and continues to advocate for criminal justice reform.

According to the Justice for Sean Ellis website (which is run by one of the docuseries subjects, Elaine Alice Murphy), Ellis received living accommodations for three years through a local church, and now has a driver’s license for the first time. At Community Servings, Ellis reportedly began working at the shipping dock and now serves as a development associate, a role in which he helps with community activities. Ellis is also engaged to a Community Servings co-worker and was recently selected for the 2020-2021 Institute for Nonprofit Practice Community Fellows Program. He been allowed to travel out of state for Innocence Network speaking engagements in San Diego, Memphis, and Atlanta.

As noted in Trial 4, Ellis’ story is unfortunately not that uncommon. The 2020 Netflix docuseries The Innocence Files offers a detailed look at various individuals who were wrongfully convicted of crimes, many of whom were manipulated by authoritative figures due to the circumstances of their environment. In Ellis’ case, he inadvertently got mixed up in the activities of allegedly dirty cops, which resulted in a narrative that the department still stands by today. Trial 4 is a story of redemption, but it’s also an unflattering portrayal of law enforcement in Boston.

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