Badge Of Shame
A Taste Of Freedom
Worst Case Scenario
Boston, Massachusetts 1993. Detective Mulligan of the Boston police force was shot five times in the head at point-blank range. Asleep in his car, this pre-medicated, shocking act is back-dropped by Mulligan’s unrivalled record of 400 convictions from 500 arrests. If there’s one officer on the force painting a big target on their back – it’s him.
With the officers emotionally stirred by their colleagues’ death, a 65-member task force is assembled to find the person responsible. What ensues from here is a shocking failure on all levels of police work. With well-documented reports of the Boston police cutting corners, failing to do forensics and relying too heavily on eye-witness reports, this volatile cocktail of problems looked set to spill into this case at any moment.
In the unfortunate firing line when this happens is Sean K Ellis, a man seemingly framed for this murder and someone who maintains his innocence to this day.
2 hung juries later and a third court case mired in controversy thanks to corrupt officers, Ellis is sentenced to life in prison. That is, until 22 years later when he faces a Boston judge who’s had time to look over all the evidence and come to a decision over his future.
I won’t divulge what happens, especially for those unaware of the case, but it’s a shocking and thematic case that’s explored in excruciating detail here.
Across the 8 episodes, Trial 4 dives into all the nitty gritty details of the case. There’s a detailed timeline of events here too, beginning with the cop killing itself and progressing through to present day.
Systemic racism and problems within the American justice department are unfortunately nothing new for this genre. True-crime connoisseurs will undoubtedly draw parallels to the Kalief Browder story, which is just as shocking and emotionally stirring as this one.
Unlike that 6-part documentary though, there’s no Riker’s Island and a much longer run-time given the hour-long episodes.
There’s an awful lot to digest here and all the usual stylistic cues you’d expect from this genre show up. You’ve got your eye-witness accounts, plenty of talking heads and archival footage – both videos and photos – from the time. The long run-times are used well for the most part, although to be fair a couple of chapters in the middle do drag on a little.
Despite that though, Trial 4 is a well documented, shocking case that continues Netflix’s hot-streak of producing excellent true crime documentaries. If there’s one thing this streaming platform excels at – it’s this.
While it’s undoubtedly similar to the Kalief Browder story, the fact that these issues aren’t an isolated incident is alarming enough to point fingers at a system that seems broken and in desperate need of an overhaul.
Whether that will ever come to fruition however, remains to be seen. In the meantime, this is another must-watch true crime piece and well worth the 8 hour time investment.
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Verdict - 8/10
3 thoughts on “Trial 4 – Netflix Season 1 Review”
This was a great series. Being from the area it really hit home. However I don’t feel it gives that time period the attention it deserves. While Boston’s got the big name backing this scandal there was more happening in the N.S. (Chelsea, Revere, Lynn and Logan) from the early 80’s to at least the mid 2000’s. Cab drivers and the walls of the Squire, Clinton Ave, and G.S. have stories. I will say the vast majority of Police Officers I knew weren’t involved with this type of garbage aside from maybe fixing a girlfriends speeding ticket or hanging out at a bar after it closed. It’s a tough job that getting tougher for these guys and gals. As long as they aren’t encroaching on anyone’s civil liberties (like they were in Trial 4) cut them some slack. We have to keep in perspective that what happened then couldn’t possibly happen again today with the advent of cell phones and other recording devices. Power, money, and sex are always the root causes of corruption in some form or another. None of which are going away anytime soon.
Attorney Scapicchio argues in her retrial motion that the gun evidence was cooked up by the corrupt police. Example: The “tip” on the hiding place was delivered by Det. Brazil, who purposely got it from the uncle — whom he was leaning on big time. She doesn’t believe the girlfriend’s print was truly on the gun clip: that finding came from the notorious Sgt. Foilb who’d previously sent an innocent Boston man to prison (Stephan Cowens) by misidentifying a print —and who also collected the prints from Mulligan’s driver’s door that police claimed were Patterson’s but were thrown out by the Mass.SJC for being unscientifically collected and analyzed. Plus: cops questioned witnesses about Mulligan owning a pearl-handled gun 5 DAYS BEFORE a gun with pearl handles was “found” in the field and designated the murder weapon. For more – including the 2013 retrial motion – see justiceforseanellis.com.
This is an excellent documentary.
I’m unclear on one key point. Sean Ellis’s attorney floated the theory that one of John Mulligan’s corrupt fellow cops was the murderer and that they framed Elllis before anyone started looking into their activities. If so, how did the murder weapon as well as Mulligan’s gun wind up in Terry Patterson’s car?