Sean K. Ellis was convicted in 1995—at his third trial, after two prior hung juries—of the murder and robbery of controversial Boston detective John J. Mulligan. Age nineteen at the time of the crime, Sean insisted he was innocent. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Elaine Alice Murphy learned of Sean’s Boston conviction by happenstance, while living in Montreal. She was shocked to realize he was the same Sean Ellis who’d been her son Mark’s former classmate a decade prior when the Murphy family lived in suburban Boston. He’d been bussed to their school district from inner-city Boston through a voluntary racial integration program. Sean and Mark had been best friends.
Stricken to think that the gentle boy she remembered would die in prison an innocent man, Murphy joined with his family and lawyers in a two-decade quest to free him. Her research uncovered evidence of Boston police corruption that tainted the Mulligan homicide investigation and trials. The finding was called a “game changer” by the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court and led to the reversal of Sean’s convictions and his release from prison in 2015.
In for Life is Murphy’s riveting account of her journey through a corrupt criminal justice system and her growing distress at the two different Americas Sean and her son faced growing up. The book goes far deeper into the Ellis case than does the acclaimed Netflix series, Trial 4. Woven throughout are insights from Murphy’s two decades of prison visits with Sean and the letters they exchanged. Their unique bond grew ever stronger over Sean’s near-22-year incarceration and became life changing for both.
About the Author
Elaine Alice Murphy has been a teacher in the Boston Public Schools and a program supervisor for the Massachusetts Department of Education. Her personal connection with Sean Ellis plunged her into the world of investigative journalism, and her work earned her a senior justice fellowship at Brandeis University’s Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. She holds a master’s degree in human development from Harvard University.