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David Ranta, convicted murder being freed because he didn't do it.
David Ranta
Night Owl readers who didn't previously know him were introduced to David Ranta Thursday. Thanks to a unit of the King County (Brooklyn) District Attorney's office that looks into questionable prosecutions, it became clear he had been convicted in a high-profile case of murder he didn't commit and served more than two decades for it. Less than two days after his release, he suffered a serious heart attack:
Ranta, who was falsely convicted of murdering Williamsburg rabbi Chaskel Werzberger in 1990, was released from his Buffalo maximum security facility on Thursday after a judge determined the detectives who manned his case had coached witnesses and otherwise mishandled it. But family members say that on Ranta's second day out of jail, he starting feeling pain in his back and shoulders; he was taken to a local hospital and had to have a stent put in to relieve blockages in his arteries. "The toll that his years in prison have taken on David is great," his lawyer, Pierre Sussman, told reporters.

Ranta didn't have a history of heart trouble, but family members say he does take medication for high-blood pressure. And he had been nervous about his impending freedom just prior to his release. "I really don’t know what I’ll do if I get out," he told the Times a few weeks ago. "It’s like a whole new life." As of today, Ranta is still in the hospital, awaiting a second surgery.

Another instance of bad karma being directed to the wrong address.

After his conviction, in 1991, 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.

More recent investigations uncovered a multitude of misconduct by detectives eager to clear the case because of community uproar and pressure from the D.A.'s office. The district attorney then, Charles J. Hynes, is the same now, having been repeatedly reelected since 1989.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Sat Mar 23, 2013 at 12:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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