Event Recap

A Compelling Conversation with Sean Ellis: Talking about resilience, community, and criminal justice reform with Boston advocate

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Even though his wrongful convictions, which resulted in his imprisonment for 22 years, seven months, and 29 days, have been overturned, Sean Ellis is still working for justice– not only for himself but for everyone.  

Sean Ellis

Ellis was the latest speaker in Bunker Hill Community College’s Compelling Conversations series, which brings advocates, innovators, and leaders to the College for conversations about important issues facing our community and the world at large.

BHCC’s Associate Vice President, Chief Equity and Compliance Officer, Affirmative Action Officer, and Section 504/ADA Coordinator Nahomi Carlisle, Esq. and Dr. Latasha Sarpy, Chairperson and Professor in the Behavioral Science Department introduced Mr. Ellis. The wide-ranging conversation touched upon police, criminal justice, and prison reform as well as ways in which we all can work to remedy injustice and inequality, particularly affecting Black and brown communities, and punctuated by Ellis’s hard-earned insight and life story. The February 24, 2022 conversation was moderated by Professor of English Tony Clark and BHCC HOPE Ambassadors Geordan Siewe, Tastery Reed, and James McAlpine.

Arrested and convicted after two mistrials of murdering Boston Police Detective James Mulligan in 1993, Ellis spent more than two decades behind bars before Suffolk Superior Court overturned his convictions in 2015 when Judge Carol S. Ball ruled that “this is a case where justice has not been done.” Ellis’s exoneration came with revelations of corruption throughout the Boston Police Department. The ruling was later upheld by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court—meaning that Ellis’s conviction and imprisonment were not based on evidence but were directly attributable to police misconduct. Suffolk County prosecutors declined to retry Ellis, and his record has subsequently been cleared.

Today, Ellis advocates for police and prison reform and helps those leaving prison with reentry, predominantly with the New England Innocence Project and the Exoneree Network. “If you don’t have any hope, then it’s hard to move forward,” Ellis told the audience.. “It’s getting to the point where you build up on your core, the strength and inner level of one’s self to hold on to that hope.”

You can learn more about Sean Ellis’s story in the Netflix documentary, “Trial 4,” streaming now. Join us for the next Compelling Conversation on Thursday, May 5, 2022 featuring constitutional law scholar and anti-discrimination advocate, Kenji Yoshino. Learn more at bhcc.edu/cc.