Christopher Ellis conviction vacated by Nassau County judge

Statement of NCDA Communications Director Brendan Brosh provides details.


In 1993, Christopher Ellis of Hempstead, then 23, was convicted of the 1990 murder of 25-year-old Hofstra assistant football coach Joseph Healy.

Ellis was arrested in 1991 in connection with an armed robbery in Freeport. County detectives questioned him regarding the Healy murder. According to published reports, Ellis was deprived of food, drink, and sleep during the 18 hours of questioning, at the end of which he confessed to the murder. However, he quickly recanted, but was convicted and remained in jail until last month, when the Honorable Patricia Harrington vacated his conviction in Nassau County Court.

Harrington ruled that the notes from a Nassau County detective’s memo pad, in which the detective recorded interviews with other suspects in the Healy case, should have been turned over to the lawyers handling Ellis’s case.

Ellis was freed, but Monday, Sept. 20, was set as the date by which the court would decide whether or not he should be retried for the murder based on all evidence accrued, and on Sept. 20, the announcement was made of a retrial.

Nassau County District Attorney Communications Director Brendan Brosh released the following statement:

The Nassau County Conviction Integrity Unit investigates all allegations of wrongful conviction. The Conviction Integrity Unit began investigating claims of the wrongful conviction of Christopher Ellis in August 2019. Mr. Ellis was convicted after trial in 1993 of murder in the second degree, two counts of attempted robbery in the first degree, two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, and one count of criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree.

The Conviction Integrity Unit investigative team reviewed the Nassau County Police Department’s case file, which revealed certain memo-pad notations made by a detective after the September 29, 1990, murder of Joseph Healy. The memo-pad entries relate to leads the police received about two other potential suspects of the crime who the police ultimately declined to charge.

These memo-pad notes were not contained in the District Attorney’s file, and further investigation revealed that they had never been turned over to the defendant or the two co-defendants as required under Brady v. Maryland. Upon discovery, the Conviction Integrity Unit promptly disclosed the notes to Mr. Ellis’ attorney, Ilaan Maazel, Esq.

The NCDA has no basis to believe that the failure to disclose the notes was intentional, or that the prosecutor was even aware of their existence as they were not in the prosecution file. The Conviction Integrity Unit was unable to confer with the former prosecutor because he passed away in September 2018.

Along with the murder of Mr. Healy, Ellis was convicted of an attempted robbery in Freeport. The conviction as it relates to those charges has not been disturbed.

While failure to provide the detective’s notes requires vacatur of Mr. Ellis’ murder conviction, prosecutors have determined, based on a thorough review of the evidence, that retrial is warranted to ensure justice is done.