Appeals Court upholds Moran murder conviction

October 31, 2009
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The Massachusetts Appeals Court this week affirmed the murder conviction of a Chelsea man who stabbed a Lynn father of three to death at a Chelsea produce market seven years ago, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley announced.

The court last week affirmed the second-degree murder conviction of Victor Moran, 27, indicted for first-degree murder for fatally stabbing his co-worker, 40-year-old Juan Diego Marchante, at the Garden Fresh Salad Company during an argument on Oct. 7, 2002.

"We investigate, prepare, and try these cases not merely for convictions," Conley said. "We do it to ensure that the convictions are just and stand up on appeal. We could not bring Juan Marchante back to his family, but we could ensure that his killer’s sentence stands."

The grounds of the appeal centered around statements that Moran made in Spanish to a relative that were overheard by a bi-lingual Chelsea Police detective – statements that were apparently incriminating.

Well after being read his Miranda rights, Moran made statements in Spanish to his sister that were overheard by a bi-lingual Chelsea Police detective as the detective entered and exited the interview room. Moran then made additional statements to State Police detectives in the presence of the same bi-lingual detective. On appeal, Moran claimed that neither statement was voluntary under Massachusetts’s law. The Appeals Court found otherwise.

"There is an absence of evidence to support the defendant’s suggestion that the police intentionally placed [his sister] in the room to deliberately monitor the defendant’s statements to her or to break down his capacity to resist their questions," Justice Charlotte Perretta wrote in a 10-page decision. "Nor is there anything in the record to show that [the sister] was acting as an agent of the police…Thus, this case does not present the question that might otherwise be presented as to the police practice of placing a friend or relative in a room with the defendant in order to surreptitiously monitor their conversation or to evoke an inculpatory emotional response."

With regard to Moran’s statement to police, "the evidence shows, and the judge properly found, that the defendant was twice read his Miranda rights in Spanish; he readily responded in the affirmative each time when asked if he understood those rights; he indicated on each occasion that he wished to speak to the police; and each time he signed the Miranda form, printed in Spanish, provided to him."

Moran also claimed on appeal that the trial prosecutor’s closing argument was improper as it proposed the foundation for a first-degree conviction under the theory of deliberate premeditation.

"How long," the prosecutor asked jurors rhetorically, "does it take to conceive of a plan to kill somebody? You’ll be instructed on premeditated murder, murder in the first degree. Seconds…He retrieves the knife. More time to contemplate. ‘What am I going to do with that knife? I’m going to take that knife, and I’m going to kill him’…Instead of going to a boss, instead of going to his sister, instead of going to his friends, he decides to arm himself with a knife and use that knife."

"Although the prosecutor’s suggestion that the defendant grabbed the knife intending to kill the victim is only a possible inference to be drawn from the evidence, it is not an unreasonable inference," the court wrote. "[T]he prosecutor’s argument referred to what the defendant might have been thinking based upon an inference reasonably drawn from his own statements and actions…"

The court also noted that the trial judge repeatedly instructed jurors that closing arguments were not evidence and that jurors’ memories – not attorneys’ representations – should control their verdicts.

Evidence introduced at the original trial showed that the two had argued earlier in the day and that, near the end of their shifts, they fought again on the business’s loading dock. Evidence showed that Moran broke away from Marchante, retrieved a kitchen knife, and stabbed the older man in the chest before tossing the knife in a dumpster and fleeing the scene.

Marchante died of a stab wound to his lung and pulmonary artery. Chelsea Police responded almost immediately and learned of Moran’s identity from witnesses at the scene. They and State Police homicide detectives assigned to Conley’s office apprehended Moran two days later.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Treseler prosecuted the case at trial. Assistant District Attorney Macy Lee argued the case on appeal. Marisela Ramirez was the victim witness advocate assigned to the case. Moran is represented by attorney Richard Shea.

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