by the Forward

Innocent Man Who Served 23 Years for Satmar Rabbi Slay Suffers Heart Attack

The innocent man freed after serving 23 years in prison for the murder of a Brooklyn rabbi suffered a serious heart attack just a day after being released, his lawyer said.

David Ranta, 58, was freed Thursday after more than two decades behind bars for the 1990 robbery slaying of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic community.

Just over 24 hours later, he was felled by what lawyer Pierre Sussman told the Daily News was a severe heart attack.

Doctors discovered that one of Ranta’s arteries was completely blocked and were forced to insert a stent, the New York Times reported. Ranta was said to be not out of danger yet and was expected to undergo more procedures.

Since the heart attack on Friday evening, Ranta’s condition has been stabilized, Sussman said.

“The accumulated trauma of being falsely convicted and incarcerated for 23 years, coupled with the intense emotions experienced surrounding his release, has had a profound impact on his health,” the attorney said.

Sussman did not disclose what hospital was treating his client.

It was a stunning turn in the dramatic case that seemed to have taken its final twist on Thursday after the conviction integrity unit of the Brooklyn district attorney’s office concluded after a year-long investigation that the case against him was fatally flawed.

“Sir, you are free to go,” acting state Supreme Court Justice Miriam Cyrulnik told Ranta at a Brooklyn courthouse as relatives, including his daughter who was an infant when he was jailed, erupted in tears and shouts of joy.

Prosecutors had joined Ranta’s defense attorney in asking Cyrulnik to vacate Ranta’s conviction “in the interest of justice.”

Ranta was found guilty of killing Werzberger on Feb. 8, 1990, and stealing his car in an effort to flee following an unsuccessful attempt to rob a diamond courier. The crime rattled the Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn and prompted calls for swift justice.

“As I said from the beginning, I had nothing to do with this case,” Ranta told reporters following the hearing.

The case is the latest in a string of wrongful convictions that have gained media attention in recent months, creating a headache for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who faces a rare primary challenge in September as he seeks a seventh four-year term.

This story "Innocent Man Who Served 23 Years for Satmar Rabbi Slay Suffers Heart Attack" was written by Forward Staff.


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