Documentary

Trial 4

Ellis' story is a vivid illustration of the principle that justice delayed is justice denied.

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Trial 4 is the story of Sean Ellis, accused of the brutal killing of Boston Detective John Mulligan in a Walgreens parking lot and imprisoned for more than 20 years as a result. The eight-episode Netflix series follows the well-established conventions of the genre set by hit shows such as Making a Murderer. There's the colorful crusading lawyer, the clues that don't add up, the enterprising local journalist, the teary significant other, the turgid atmospheric soundtrack, and finally the broader socio-political relevance.

The reason the genre is so popular and compelling, though, is because at the center of each story is a heartbreaking injustice. As presented in Trial 4, the evidence against then-19-year-old Ellis is astonishingly weak, while the racial animus and self-serving corruption in the Boston police department is appallingly pervasive. The series gets its name from the fact that Ellis is awaiting his fourth trial—after two mistrials and a wrongful conviction—for a murder committed in 1993. His story, and so many others like it, are vivid illustrations of the principle that justice delayed is justice denied.

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  2. while the racial animus and self-serving corruption in the Boston police department is appallingly pervasive

    A black man still can’t get no justice in a small Southern town. Hey, did you know that when Welcome Back, Kotter premiered in 1975, the Boston ABC affiliate refused to show it for the first few episodes because the show featured an integrated classroom?

    Almost as astounding as the producers being forced to have a teacher’s union rep on set to make sure the character of Kotter didn’t do anything a teacher’s union rep might object to as being a negative portrayal of a teacher.

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