Innocent Man Freed 23 Years After Murder of Hasidic Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger

Real Killer May Never Be Found in Notorious Brooklyn Slay

By Reuters

Published March 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Ranta is the third defendant freed as a result of the conviction integrity unit, which currently is examining 14 other cases, mostly homicides.

It began looking into the Ranta case after Hynes spoke about the unit to a gathering of defense lawyers, including Michael Baum, the lawyer who represented Ranta at trial. Baum asked the office to examine Ranta’s case.

Investigators soon found that a key witness, a teenager named Menachem Lieberman who picked Ranta out of a lineup, had since recanted. He said he did not recognize Ranta but selected him after a detective told him to “pick the guy with the big nose.”

A jail house snitch and his girlfriend, both of whom fingered Ranta as the shooter, also admitted to prosecutors that they made up their story to secure a favorable plea deal.

Ranta had long argued that the case against him was troubled, but he failed in two appeals, with prosecutors opposed to his motion in both instances.

Chaim Weinberger, the courier who was the target of the failed robbery, had testified at Ranta’s trial that Ranta was not the man who tried to steal his gemstones. In 1995, at a hearing to consider one of Ranta’s appeals, Theresa Astin testified that her husband, Joseph Astin, had committed the murder.

Astin died in April 1990, two months after the crime occurred. Nevertheless, the evidence against Ranta was deemed sufficient until prosecutors reopened the case last year.

“As soon as we reached that conclusion, there was no point in keeping David Ranta in jail another day,” Hynes said.

At Ranta’s brief court appearance on Thursday, Cyrulnik apologized to Ranta for his years in prison.

“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,” the judge said.

As he left the courthouse, Ranta carried a purple mesh bag with the belongings he had gathered from his prison cell only hours earlier. Asked whether there was anything he wanted to do now that he was free, he smiled and said, “Yeah. Get the hell out of here, maybe.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.