NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The man who spent 23 years in prison before being cleared of the 1990 murder of a rabbi suffered a heart attack on his second day of freedom Friday, CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported.
An attorney for David Ranta said the former inmate had a serious heart attack Friday night and was being treated at a local hospital.
“On Friday evening, David Ranta suffered a heart attack. My office is happy to report that he’s been stabilized and is being treated in cardiac intensive care at a metropolitan hospital,” attorney Pierre Sussman said in a statement. “He is presently resting, with his family by his bedside. We will continue to ensure that David receives the required, ongoing medical attention he needs.”
Sussman suggested a connection between Ranta’s conviction and release and his health scare.
“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,” Sussman said in a statement.
A judge vacated the conviction of the 58-year-old on Thursday afternoon after a reinvestigation of his case cast serious doubt on evidence used to convict him in the cold-blooded shooting of the Brooklyn rabbi.
“I’m overwhelmed. I feel like I’m under water, swimming. Like I said from the beginning, I had nothing to do with this case,” Ranta said after leaving state court in Brooklyn.
Ranta was found guilty of murdering Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger, who was shot on Feb. 8, 1990 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The murder happened on Clymer Avenue as a suspect tried to rob a diamond courier, who escaped unharmed.
Brooklyn prosecutors had recently concluded that Ranta was innocent in the death of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger, who was killed by a bandit fleeing a botched robbery.
Werzberger was getting into his car when the suspect then grabbed him, shot him in the forehead, jumped in Werzberger’s car and drove away.
Though no physical evidence linked Ranta to the crime, a jury convicted him based on witness testimony and circumstantial evidence. Ranta fit the wanted man’s description of being blond and athletic.
“They used perjured testimony, it was clear,” said defense attorney Michael Baum. “They used a parade of crack heads and thieves to say whatever they had to.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said in a statement that an “exhaustive investigation” found “the foundation upon which Mr. Ranta’s conviction was based had been eroded and that no remaining evidence could lead to Mr. Ranta’s conviction, were he to be retried.”
Prosecutors believe the real killer died in a car crash two months after the murder. That man’s wife has provided information and other witnesses have recanted.
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