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Alyssa Figueroa at Alternet has some good news in her piece at Alternet, Man in Prison for a Murder He Had No Connection to Will Go Free After 23 Years.

But before reading it, take note that Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, a fellow who many view as having been progressively innovative in his post, was the new prosecutor when this case was first in court. He had made it a personal crusade to find the murderer of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger, a highly respected member of New York's Hasidic community and a survivor of Auschwitz. But Hynes was also the boss of the prosecutors who screwed the case up. The release of Ranta is a product of a special unit Hynes created especially to look into questionable prosecutions. Thus, redemption of a sort for both him and the wrongfully convicted. But who will give David Ranta his 23 years back?

David Ranta, a 58-year-old man who spent 23 years in prison for a crime he almost certainly didn’t commit, will most likely be released from prison in the upcoming days. In 1991, Ranta was found guilty of murdering a rabbi named Chaskel Werzberger, a Holocaust survivor who was shot in the head in Brooklyn after a failed robbery attempt. Ranta, who was a drug-addicted, unemployed printer at the time, was sentenced to 37.5 years in maximum-security prison. Werzberger’s murder left the Satmar Hasidic community in an uproar. Thousands attended Werzberger’s funeral, including the new Brooklyn district attorney at the time, who promised to bring justice to the community.

A detective named Louis Scarcella was on the hunt to convict someone for Werzberger’s murder, and broke several rules in order to convict Ranta, including keeping few written records and reducing the sentences of two prisoners in exchange for their information.

David Ranta, convicted murder being freed because he didn't do it.
David Ranta
According to 13-year-old witness Menachem Lieberman, Scarcella even coached him to ‘pick the guy with the big nose,’ when he went in to identify the murderer in the lineup room. Still, Scarcella told the  New York Times that he didn’t frame anyone. According to the Times, another key witness said Ranta was “100 percent not” the murderer. Despite his having no physical connection to the case, Ranta was convicted anyway.

Ranta told the court:

Now you people do what you got to do because I feel this is all a total frame setup … When I come down on my appeal, I hope to God he brings out the truth because a lot of people are going to be ashamed of themselves.
In a 1996 post-conviction, a woman named Theresa Astin told the court that her husband, who had died in a car accident two months after the murder, was the real killer. She said he confessed to her he shot Werzberger — but the judge said her confession was inadequate.

On Thursday, Ranta will be released from a New York state prison and flown to New York City, where a State Supreme Court judge will most likely release him. Ranta’s release comes after a year-long investigation by the district attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit. The unit interviewed two witnesses who admitted they fabricated stories. Prosecutors have joined Ranta’s lawyer in calling for his release.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2003Is Saddam Dead?:

I'm flummoxed by the obsession over whether Hussein is dead. Who cares? A great deal of that is psy ops -- the US hopes that by raising doubt, Hussein will expose himself.

But ultimately, it's an irrelevant question. Iraq's defenders have already decentralized their command and control structure, ensuring that even a clean "decapitation" won't affect units operation autonomously. From a propaganda standpoint, the Iraqi leadership has enough old tape and body doubles of Saddam to assuage (or disappoint) the populace in his continued existence.

And even if Saddam was unambiguously killed, would that ensure a peaceful surrender and ascension of a pro-US government? What if one of Saddam's sons took power? Or a top RG general? Or perhaps worst of all, a cleric?

Tweet of the Day

Boehner says new gun laws are not needed unless guns develop uteri or demand health care.
@LOLGOP via TweetDeck

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, we lost our live stream but the show went on! More about Iraq & the toxic political atmosphere surrounding it. Greg Dworkin on the state of play of gun policy legislation & gun gag laws on doctors. Sen. Coburn's amendment blocking NSF funding for research not directly connected to national security or the country's economic interests, the real target of which is funding of political science research, including voter attitudes on the filibuster, and study of presidential executive powers. Thankfully, Iraq taught us that executive power could never impact our national security or economic interests. Right?

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