Netflix’s Trial 4 Review: Systemic-Racial Injustice and an Innocent Convicted Again

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Trial 4 premiered on 11th November 2020. In recent times, Netflix has been in full swing in terms of bringing true-crime series to the platform. Series like Carmel, American Murder: The Family Next Door, A Perfect Crime, I Am A Killer: Released, and numerous other series have brought to viewers’ attention crime either unknown or unsolved or with horrible and heinous truth.

“A Boston man facing his 4th trial for murdering a police officer fights to prove his innocence and expose the police corruption that unjustly put him away for 22 years.”

22 Years of A Life Unfairly Charged

Time and again we hear stories of systemic injustice against people of different races and the USA seems to have been the hub of the supremacist bigoted white race who can’t stand the idea of bringing justice to anyone who is not-white. With Trial 4, we again travel back to a crime story back in 1993 and how a person of colour suffered unfairly for 22 years of his life.

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Back in September 1993, Boston Police Departments top-cop John Mulligan, a 27-year veteran of the force, was shot dead outside Walgreens where he was on a private security task. How was he shot? As Mulligan was resting in his SUV, he was shot at point-blank range with 5 bullets loaded into his face and it was found that it could be an execution-style murder of which the cause was unknown.

Trial 4

However, according to other detectives, Mulligan would be on the top of the Detective hit-list due to his big arrest numbers and dedication towards his job. (He had no life outside his work, said a cop-friend) The year before his death he had been officially branded as a “problem officer” by his department, as he was one of the “handful of officers with the largest number of civilian complaints against them.”

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Sean Ellis from Dorchester, a teenager who was at Walgreens buying diapers on the night of the crime, was not just questioned by the police but was linked to the murder of Mulligan and was charged. Other than Ellis, many other people in the nearby black neighbourhood were aggressively investigated and blamed for the gruesome crime. The authorities reframed Mulligan’s brutal assassination as a random crime of opportunity, committed when the two teenagers Ellis, 19, and Terry Patterson, 18, of Hyde Park saw the detective sleeping, and decided to steal his gun and shot him for the same.

3 Unfair Trials

Trial 4

In February 1995, Patterson was convicted for the murder of Det. Mulligan and with him Ellis was also charged. In the first 2 hearings, the two jury panels failed to find conclusive evidence against Ellis suggesting that he was not involved with Patterson in any way. This led to hung juries and mistrials. Still, after nothing concrete to hold against Ellis, he was charged with first-degree murder and robbery without the possibility of parole.

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Ellis’s 3rd trial found no additional pieces of evidence or things to place him in the crime and the two initial eye-witnesses were also not present but still, he was charged. Rewed Boston Defense Attorney Norman Zalkind and his partner, David Duncan, then took on Ellis’s case for nominal reimbursement by the state’s Committee for Public Counsel Service, since Ellis was indigent with no eyewitnesses and no physical evidence connecting Ellis to the crime scene. Furthermore, the defence did not put on a case in his 3 initial trials even after extensive fibre and hair analysis and search in Mulligan’s vehicle for the clue turned up empty.

On December 17, 2018, D.A. John Pappas and Boston Police Commissioner William Gross held an unusual afternoon, a live-streaming press conference to announce the Commonwealth would formally drop all charges against Sean Ellis for the 1993 murder and robbery of Boston Police Detective John Mulligan the following day, December 18.

Ellis spent 22 years of his life in prison from 1993-2015 serving for a crime that he didn’t commit. His convictions were overturned in 2015 when Suffolk Superior Court Justice Carol Ball ruled “justice was not done” in his trial, based on new evidence put forward by Ellis’s attorney, Rosemary Scapicchio.

Stream It or Skip It

Trial 4
John Mulligan (L) and Sean Ellis (R)

STREAM IT! Trial 4 is a worth-watching series that throws light on the issue of corruption and discrimination. Ellis maintained his stand on the entire case and believed in his innocence and decided not to quit and accept something he hasn’t done. It is also believed that the arrest of Ellis was an attempt by the detectives to cover their own wrongdoings. And in time like those where Black folks were considered nothing other than downgraded thieves and murderers, Ellis was their best option to blame without question!

Trial 4 is now streaming on Netflix.

Read our other reviews here.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW

Overall

SUMMARY

The death of a cop in Boston led to the entire department wreaking havoc on a Black neighbourhood. Trial 4 is the story of Sean Ellis, a man wrongly convicted for 22 years. Stream It or Skip It? Read Here.

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