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NY man cleared, free after 23 years in prison

Richard Drew / AP

David Ranta is hugged by family members after Judge Miriam Cyrulnik freed him, in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn, New York, on Thursday. Ranta, 58, who spent more than two decades behind bars was freed after a reinvestigation of his case cast serious doubt on evidence used to convict him in the Feb. 8, 1990 shooting of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger.

Richard Drew / AP

David Ranta, right, with his attorney Pierre Sussman, has his handcuffs removed after Judge Miriam Cyrulnik freed him, in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn, New York, on March 21.

Richard Drew / AP

David Ranta is greeted by family members after Judge Miriam Cyrulnik freed him.

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.

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Richard Drew / AP

David Ranta kisses a family member after Judge Miriam Cyrulnik freed him, in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn, New York, on March 21.

 

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