Maurice R. Lerner (a.k.a. Maurice "Pro" Lerner) was a Mafia hit man connected with the Patriarca crime family who was convicted of murder in 1970. His conviction subsequently was quashed due to unethical behavior by the F.B.I. and its chief witness.

Patriarca Family Murder Trial[edit | edit source]

Lerner, Patriarca family boss Raymond Patriarca and three other members of the family, Robert Fairbrothers, John Rossi, and Rudolph Sciarra, were tried in 1970 for murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Irish Mafia mobster John "Red" Kelley, a sometime associate of the family, gave testimony as a cooperating witness linking Lerner, Patriarca and other family members to the 1968 murder of Rudolph "Rudy" Marfeo and Anthony Melei.[1] Kelley testified he had been contracted by Lerner to kill Marfeo and Melei, whom Kelley and Lerner allegedly murdered with shotguns.[2] After the trial, Kelley went into the federal witness protection program.[3]

Lerner, Patriarca and his associates were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Lerner also was convicted of two counts of murderer for which he was sentenced to two life terms in addition to the ten years for conspiracy, all of the sentences to be served consecutively.[4] The jury was unable to reach a verdict for the other four defendants.

Lerner's conviction subsequently was quashed by the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 1988. It had been established that Kelley had perjured himself at the trial, as had F.B.I. Special Agent H. Paul Rico, who had collaborated Kelley's testimony.[5] The Court ruled, in the case Lerner v. Moran 542 A.2d 1089 (1988), that

...that Kelley's perjury, elicited by the FBI, constituted material exculpatory evidence withheld in violation of the applicant's due-process rights. We also hold that the trial justice correctly denied the applicant's motion to dismiss his indictment.

The court vacated his conviction and ordered a new trial.[6]

References[edit | edit source]

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