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Christopher Moran

Other Rhode Island Exonerations
At around 8:30 a.m. on April 27, 1992, two men burst into Rick’s Pub in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Wearing masks and overcoats and carrying guns, the men shouted at the three people in the bar to lie on the ground and not look at the robbers.

The men stole about $25 from the cash register and then left. Because the robbers wore masks and overcoats, the victims were not able to give police precise descriptions. One man was described as about 6’1” and pudgy, the other about 5’ 9” and also “stout.”

A Central Falls firefighter would later say that he saw two men leaving the bar and getting into a white sedan. He followed the car and watched at least one person then leave that vehicle and get into a red compact car. The firefighter called the police on his cellphone and said that one of the men appeared to look like 22-year-old Christopher Moran, who was part of a well-known family in the close-knit community. His brother, Gregg Moran, had briefly served as a police officer, and another brother, Joseph Moran, still worked as a police sergeant.

Acting on a hunch, the police went to Gregg Moran’s apartment. They said a red Mercury Capri was in the driveway, its engine still warm. After a four-hour standoff, police arrested Gregg Moran and Christopher Moran, charging them with armed robbery, conspiracy, two counts of assault, and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Inside the apartment, police found several weapons and pieces of cloth stuffed into a stovepipe.

George Gregoire, the Morans’s cousin, was arrested separately. Police said he stole a white Pontiac and drove it as the getaway vehicle. Police said they found Gregoire’s fingerprints on the outside of the car.

The three men went to trial together in Providence Superior Court in December 1994. Gregg Moran had hired Richard Egbert, a Massachusetts attorney. As the trial date drew near, Egbert asked for a continuance because of a scheduling conflict with a federal drug trial in Massachusetts. Edward Romano, a Rhode Island attorney, was assisting Egbert, but his presence was mainly for research and to comply with court rules.

Judge John Bourcier, who was presiding over the Moran trial, declined to grant the continuance. “You see,” Judge Bourcier told Romano, “all that counts is that there is local counsel. You are local counsel. The other attorney who is permitted to come in here on the form – it specifically says if he’s not able to be here, that’s it. You’re local counsel.”

Gregg Moran said, “The main problem here is, I didn’t retain Eddie Romano, in all due respect. I didn’t retain him as primary counsel. The five brothers got together and retained Mr. Egbert. All our savings and everything else, has been put into this.”

The trial began on December 9, 1994. Gregg Moran retained another attorney to represent him. None of the robbery victims identified the defendants. The firefighter, who had initially said one of the robbers looked like Chris Moran, testified that he could not make an identification.

The state built its case upon the evidence found at Gregg Moran’s apartment. This included a gun case said to be consistent with the type of weapon a witness said the robbers used. In addition, a hair and fiber expert told the jury that tests showed that the clothes the Moran brothers were wearing when they surrendered had traces of material consistent with the “microscopic” properties of the cloth found in the chimney. The expert also said this fabric was consistent with material used to make trench coats.

Separately, a fingerprint expert testified that Gregoire was the source of the prints found on the Pontiac, but the expert was unable to say when the prints were made.

The jury convicted all three men on December 16, 1994. Christopher Moran was convicted of armed robbery, two assault charges, conspiracy, and possessing a stolen vehicle. Gregg Moran received a sentence of 78 years in prison. Christopher Moran received 68 years.

All three men appealed. Gregg Moran said that Judge Bourcier’s denial of his request for a continuance was unreasonable and harmed his right to mount a vigorous defense. Chris Moran and Gregoire each filed for judgments of acquittal, claiming that there was insufficient evidence to convict them.

On July 25, 1997, the Rhode Island Supreme Court threw out the convictions for all three men, releasing them from prison. In Gregg Moran’s case, the court agreed that Judge Bourcier had abused his discretion. He could have severed the cases, the court wrote. “Instead, he took the constitutionally least desirable course when he forced Gregg Moran to trial with a lawyer other than the one he had selected for this purpose and with one who, to boot, had an inadequate opportunity to prepare for the trial.”

The court granted Chris Moran and Gregoire judgments of acquittal, stating that the evidence connecting them to the robbery was too circumstantial and tenuous. In Moran’s case, the state’s evidence was that he was present at his brother’s apartment, and that a state expert testified about clothing fibers. “We conclude that the evidence presented to the jury was insufficient to prove Chris Moran's connection to the robbery beyond a reasonable doubt,” the court wrote.

Gregg Moran later pled guilty to lesser charges related to the robbery.

On May 17, 2022, Chris Moran filed a petition seeking to be declared a wrongfully convicted person and be awarded state compensation. Judge Alice Gibney of Providence County Superior Court granted the petition on June 29, 2022, awarding Moran $130,274 in compensation.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 1/13/2023
Last Updated: 1/13/2023
State:Rhode Island
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:Assault, Possession of Stolen Property, Conspiracy
Reported Crime Date:1992
Sentence:68 years
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No