Posted Feb 20, 2014 10:59 pm CST
Confronted with strong evidence that a man who served 23 years for a murder he did not commit had been framed by a rogue police detective, the comptroller for New York City agreed to pay a $6.4 million settlement.
The settlement with David Ranta was made without involving the city’s legal department or waiting for a civil rights lawsuit to be filed, the New York Times reports.
The office of Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney at the time the case was made against Ranta, had initially defended the conviction for years. After witnesses came forward to cast doubt on the conviction, the office reinvestigated and eventually supported a motion for Ranta’s release, the newspaper recounts. (The witnesses included a woman who said she was the widow of the real killer; her husband had been investigated at the time until his death in a car accident. Others admitted they had been coached to give false testimony when approached by investigators from the DA’s office.)
Ranta is expected to pursue a separate claim against the state of New York. Legislation proposed Wednesday by state attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman would ease the way for Ranta and others to make such claims. Currently, the confession Ranta says a detective made up could prove a roadblock under a state law that makes false confessions a significant barrier to obtaining government compensation for a wrongful conviction.
Others who say they, too were wrongfully convicted and served substantial sentences for crimes they did not commit over claimed misconduct by the same detective also are expected to seek settlements, the article notes. The new Brooklyn DA, Kenneth Thompson, won election in a landslide last year after campaigning on wrongful conviction issues. While still a candidate, he supported Ranta’s quest for justice in this letter (PDF) to the state governor last year.
“This settlement is in the best interests of all parties and closes the door on a truly regrettable episode in our city’s history,” said comptroller Scott M. Stringer of the $6.4 million being paid to Ranta, in a written statement provided to the Times. “I am pleased that my office was able to move quickly on this case.”
“While no amount of money could ever compensate David for the 23 years that were taken away from him, this settlement allows him the stability to continue to put his life back together,” his lawyer, Pierre Sussman, told the Times. “We are now focusing our efforts on pursuing an unjust conviction claim with the State of New York.”
The newspaper article doesn’t explain the basis of this planned claim against the state.
ABAJournal.com: “DA attempts review of 50 homicide cases worked on by allegedly crooked detective over 26 years”
ABAJournal.com: “2 men poised for release in NYC murder case, but dozens more wrongful conviction claims await new DA”
New York Post: “Freed ‘wrong man’ in 22-year time fog”