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Nakiya Moran

Other Cook County Exonerations with Official Misconduct
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At about 9 p.m. on August 22, 2006, a gunman opened fire on a family standing near their car in Calumet City, Illinois, a small city that abuts Chicago on the north and Hammond, Indiana on the east.

Two people were wounded—40-year-old Tomas Rostro and his 16-year-old daughter Yadira. Rostro’s 37-year-old wife Flora, their sons 15-year-old Edwin and 18-year-old Eduardo, and a family friend, 14-year-old Desiree Dolata, escaped injury.

Police collected nine nine-millimeter Luger shell casings from street near where the shots were fired.

Yadira, who was shot in the buttocks, and Eduardo told police they saw the gunman’s head pop up from behind a bush across the street from their home. Yadira told police she recognized the shooter as 17-year-old Nakiya Moran from school.

On August 24, 2006, after Yadira and Eduardo identified Moran in a photographic lineup as the gunman, Calumet City police officers Kevin Rapocz and Mitchell Growe arrested Moran.

Moran was charged with five counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.

Moran went to trial in Cook County Circuit Court in August 2009. The prosecution contended that the shooting was gang-related because members of the Rostro family belonged to the Latin Kings street gang.

Eduardo, a junior in high school, identified Moran as the gunman and said he had known him since the 5th grade. Eduardo said that he had planned on becoming a Latin King, but several weeks earlier decided against joining the gang. He said he knew Moran to be a member of the Latin Dragons, a gang that had clashed with the Latin Kings in the past. Eduardo said he was playing basketball earlier that evening with a friend, Kimothy Hill, and they noticed a vehicle—square and boxy—with a loud muffler driving around the neighborhood.

Yadira testified that after she was shot, she looked across the street and recognized Moran, whom she had known since she was in the 2nd grade.

The defense called two witnesses, Amber Mendoza and Elizabeth Outlaw, who testified that Moran had been with them at Mendoza’s home on the night of the shooting. At 9 p.m., they said, Mendoza’s mother drove Moran to his home.

Moran’s father, William, testified that Moran had to be home at by 9 p.m. every night, and that he was home by that time on the night of the shooting.

Kimothy Hill testified that as he left the Rostro home prior to the shooting, he saw the vehicle with the loud muffler. He said someone in the car flashed the sign of the Two-Six street gang, which is not affiliated with the Latin Dragons.

In rebuttal, the prosecution called a Calumet City police officer, who testified that the Two-Six gang did not have a presence in Calumet City.

On August 24, 2009, the jury convicted Moran of five counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. He was sentenced to 62 years in prison.

In November 2012, while Moran’s case was on appeal, the trial prosecutor, assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Cornelia Coppleson, wrote a letter to Moran’s appellate lawyer, Alan Goldberg. In that letter, she reported that she had learned just a month earlier that the shell casings recovered at the scene of the shooting had been matched to a gun confiscated from another person.

Coppleson reported that on October 22, 2007—two months after the shooting at the Rostro home—police in Hammond, Indiana—just over the border from Calumet City—responded to a call of shots fired. They discovered Juan Macias with a gunshot wound. Macias admitted he was a member of the Latin Kings. Police recovered five nine-millimeter Luger shell casings. A witness said the gunman fired several shots and then got into an “older, boxy-style two-door” vehicle that drove away.

Four days later, on October 26, 2007, police in Chicago were summoned to a call of shots fired near the border of Calumet City and curbed a vehicle. Police said that as they approached the car, 18-year-old Nicholas Chavez, who was in the front passenger seat, attempted to conceal a nine-millimeter pistol. Chavez admitted that he was a member of the Latin Dragons and that he had just fired some shots at Latin Kings.

Police charged Chavez with unlawful use of a firearm and confiscated the gun. The weapon was sent to the Illinois State Police crime laboratory where ballistics tests were conducted. Testing ultimately linked the gun to the shooting at the Rostro home.

Coppleson said she was informing Moran’s appellate lawyer because the evidence was relevant to Moran’s case and because “pursuant to ongoing ethical obligations, I feel this information should be tendered to you as soon as possible.”

In February 2013, the Illinois Appellate Court upheld Moran’s convictions.

Two months later, Moran’s lawyer filed a post-conviction petition seeking a new trial. The petition claimed that the prosecution had known since January 2009—seven months before Moran’s trial—of the existence of the ballistics evidence.

In April 2015, Judge Michelle Simmons, who presided over Moran’s trial, convened an evidentiary hearing on the petition.

Evidence showed that on January 13, 2009, Illinois State Police forensic analyst Leah Kane reported to Calumet City police evidence technician Mario Glumac that the shell casings found at the Rostro shooting might be a match to the gun taken from Chavez. Kane asked that the nine casings—which had been examined by state police right after the shooting—be resubmitted for comparison. Kane made several requests before Glumac finally sent the casings in April 2009.

Moran’s lawyer presented evidence that on May 11, 2009, another state police analyst, Jeffrey Parise, informed Coppleson that the casings at the Rostro shooting had been linked to the gun taken from Chavez on October 26, 2006, as well as to the shooting of Juan Macias on October 22, 2006. The following day, Kane faxed a 28-page report on the ballistics comparison work to Coppleson.

On May 22, 2009, Kane informed Glumac that the casings had been matched to Chavez’s gun and sent him a copy of the report.

Coppleson testified at the hearing, and denied she was aware of the ballistics reports prior to Moran’s trial.

Glumac admitted he received the reports, and that he had not disclosed them to Coppleson or Moran’s defense lawyer.

The defense presented evidence that Chavez not only resembled Moran facially, but also that they were about the same height and weight, and both had dark hair.

On June 26, 2015, Judge Simmons granted the post-conviction petition and vacated Moran’s convictions. The judge ruled that the evidence linking the casings at the Rostro shooting to a gun confiscated from Chavez and linked to another gang-related shooting undermined Moran’s convictions.

Moran went to trial a second time and chose to have Simmons decide the case without a jury. On February 17, 2017, Judge Simmons acquitted Moran and he was released.

Moran subsequently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking compensation. Moran also obtained a certificate of innocence, and in May 2018, he was awarded $193,000 in compensation by the state of Illinois.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/6/2018
Last Updated: 9/10/2018
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Attempted Murder
Additional Convictions:Assault
Reported Crime Date:2006
Convicted:2009
Exonerated:2017
Sentence:62 years
Race:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:17
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No