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!
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • 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.