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Wrongfully convicted, freed NY man suffers heart attack

NEW YORK -- A New York man freed this week after spending 23 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, suffered a heart attack after just two days of freedom, his lawyer said on Saturday.

David Ranta, 58, was being treated at the cardiac intensive care unit of a New York hospital after suffering a heart attack on Friday night, attorney Pierre Sussman said.

Ranta was convicted of killing a Hasidic rabbi more than two decades ago but freed on Thursday after the conviction integrity unit of the Brooklyn district attorney's office concluded that the case against him was fatally flawed.

Prosecutors had joined Ranta's defense in asking the court to overturn his conviction “in the interest of justice.”

Since the heart attack on Friday evening, Ranta's condition has been stabilized, Sussman said.

“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,” the attorney said.

Sussman did not disclose what hospital was treating his client.

Ranta was found guilty of killing Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger on Feb. 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.

“As I said from the beginning, I had nothing to do with this case,” Ranta told reporters when he was freed on Thursday.

Investigators found that a key witness, a teenager who picked Ranta out of a lineup, had since said he did not recognize Ranta but selected him after a detective told him to “pick the guy with the big nose.”

A jailhouse snitch and his girlfriend, both of whom fingered Ranta as the shooter, also admitted to prosecutors that they made up their story to secure a favorable plea deal.

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