A judge on Tuesday formally ended the first-degree murder charge against Sean K. Ellis, who spent 23 years in prison in the 1993 killing of Boston police Detective John Mulligan.
The move came a day after prosecutors said they would not retry Ellis for the murder of Mulligan, who was shot five times in the face outside a Roslindale drugstore on a paid detail.
On Tuesday, after Ellis’s brief appearance in Suffolk Superior Court before Judge Christine Roach, authorities removed his GPS ankle monitor as his family and supporters waited. “Freedom,” said his mother, Mary Ellis.
“Words can’t really explain how I feel,” Sean Ellis said outside the courtroom. “It’s been a long, hard road, but we’re finally here.”
Suffolk District Attorney John P. Pappas said Monday that he and Police Commissioner William G. Gross continue to insist Ellis was culpable in the slaying and was properly convicted in 1995. But they do not believe they could successfully retry him.
“The nature of the evidence has not changed in 25 years, but the strength of it has declined with time,” Pappas said.
Pappas said the fact that three disgraced former police detectives — two of whom were prosecuted for corruption in federal court — played major roles in the investigation undermined other evidence.
Rosemary Scapicchio, the defense attorney who spent years litigating a request for a new trial; the New England Innocence Project; and the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state’s public defender agency, all said the prosecution of Ellis grew out of the corrupt police central to the investigation.
Scapicchio also called timing of the announcement by the district attorney office “politically motivated” and aimed at “putting their spin on the issue” before Rachael Rollins takes office as DA in January.
“They got to tell their version of the story,” she said.
Jake Wark, spokesman for the district attorney’s office, called the allegation absurd.
“The campaign for Suffolk district attorney ended six weeks ago,” Wark said. “The decision not to proceed on the case was based on the strength of the evidence more than two decades after it first proved Mr. Ellis’s guilt.”
Wark added that, as Pappas told reporters Monday, Pappas discussed the case at length with the DA-elect, who understood his decision very well.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ellis leaned into hugs and kisses from his family. He lifted up a pant leg to show supporters and reporters he was now free of the GPS tracker.
Ellis said he had worried he wouldn’t get to see his mother before she passed away.
“It’s everything I expected and more,” he said of freedom.