27 March 2013

How Is A Man Freed After 23 Years?

by Jennifer Dickquist, Staff Writer

© Mary Altaffer/AP Photo
As of March 21, 2013, David Ranta became a free man after spending 23 years in a correctional facility in New York State. Mr. Ranta was placed in jail in 1990 after he was found guilty of killing a Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn, New York. He was put in jail when his daughter was just a small infant, when the majority of individuals did not have cell phones, and before the world knew LeBron James was going to be a superstar. But how, after so many changes and so much time had passed, does a conviction be overturned and a man is released from prison?
In the case of David Ranta, an eyewitness was the evidence that sealed his fate in 1990. A 13-year-old boy, Menachem Lieberman, picked Ranta out of a line up and then proceeded to testify against him at trial. Lieberman has also stated that the police influenced his selection in the photo array by telling him to “pick the man with the big nose.” There was no physical evidence to support this testimony but yet, Ranta was convicted and sentenced to 37 years in prison.
By 2011, all of Mr. Ranta’s appeals had been exhausted and he remained in prison even though Theresa Astin came forward and stated her husband had been the real killer. However, the stars fell into place for Ranta. Leiberman contacted Ranta’s former defense attorney to admit that he had lied during the lineup and testimony twenty years prior. Around the same time, the Conviction Integrity Unit in Brooklyn contacted the same attorney to see if any cases needed reviewing. Of course, the first case he thought of was Ranta’s. Similar programs have been set up around the country including our own Post Conviction DNA Project in order to help prisoners in similar situations. After a yearlong investigation, the prosecutors and Mr. Ranta’s new attorney petitioned the court for release in the interest of justice. On March 22, 2013, a judge officially released Ranta and declared him a free man.