By Joseph Ax, Reuters
A New York man convicted of killing a Hasidic rabbi more than two decades ago was freed on Thursday after his conviction was vacated as a miscarriage of justice.
David Ranta, 58, spent 23 years in prison until 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, Pierre Sussman, in asking Cyrulnik to vacate Ranta's conviction "in the interest of justice."
"The evidence no longer establishes the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," said Assistant District Attorney John O'Mara, the chief of the conviction integrity unit.
Ranta was found guilty of killing Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger on February 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.