David Ranta’s case goes to show why prosecutorial immunity and prosecutorial impunity goes hand-in-hand. Ranta was arrested, tried, and sent to jail with meteoric speed over the murder of a Hasidic Rabbi in New York, a murder he always maintained he did not commit, nor had any clues about.
However, when Rabbi Chaskel was found murdered in 1990, the Hasidic Jewish community of New York erupted in rage for justice. The system acted swiftly – a murderer had to be found and tried – so David Ranta had his introduction to the justice system.
The charges were, Ranta had unsuccessfully tried to rob a diamond courier and in his attempt to flee the scene, murdered Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger and stole his car.
- During the trial, Chaim Weinberger, the courier who Ranta was supposed to have tried to rob, testified that Ranta was not the man who had tried to rob him
But Ranta went to jail despite pleading ardently that he knew nothing of what had happened, and that his infant daughter and family would suffer if injustice was carried out.
The system needed to show justice, and Ranta’s pleas fell on deaf ears.
From behind the bars, Ranta tried one appeal after another to have his conviction overturned, but nothing happened. And even though –
- The jailhouse snitch and his girlfriend who had identified Ranta as the shooter admitted to prosecutors that they had concocted their story to obtain a favorable plea deal
Ranta stayed in jail
- At a hearing in 1995, Theresa Astin the wife of the actual murderer, testified that her husband, Joseph Astin had committed the murder
But Ranta stayed in jail
In 2011, the conviction integrity unit of the NY District Attorney chanced upon Ranta’s case while reviewing past convictions.
- Prosecutors found that a Jewish teenager named Menachem Lieberman, who had identified Ranta out of a lineup, had done so only because a dutiful detective had whispered to him “pick the guy with the big nose…” The identifier, otherwise, did not recognize Ranta or know him.
So, after serving 23 years in prison, on Thursday, David Ranta walked free to meet his grown up daughter, the infant from whom he had been dragged away and put to rot in jail.
Justice Cyrulnik said, “Mr. Ranta, to say that I’m sorry for what you have endured would be an understatement and grossly inadequate, but I say it to you anyway.”