Reporter Hella Winston responds:


Pierre Sussman did not respond to an inquiry from The Jewish Week.

To say that were it not for the Kings County District Attorney’s office, David Ranta would still be in jail conveniently ignores the fact that it was this very same district attorney whose prosecutors used highly questionable evidence to put Ranta in jail in the first place, not to mention fought strenuously to keep him there for 23 years as he tried in vain to get his conviction overturned.

For example, the DA relied at trial on false testimony and argument that an eyewitness had made a firm, positive identification when a misleading transcript of the lineup, the tape of which was provided to the court and the defense by the DA’s office at the last minute, omitted that the main eyewitness’s “identification” was tentative and that background voices could be heard allegedly hinting at witnesses to identify. This is the same eyewitness the district attorney now claims has revealed for the first time the misconduct of Det. Louis Scarcella in suggesting to him whom to identify. Two other witnesses have also come forward and admitted to fabricating their stories—witnesses the district attorney had very strong reasons to be suspicious of at the time they testified.

On Ranta’s direct appeal, the judge acknowledged and did “not condone” the DA’s failure to turn over potentially exculpatory material to the defense, but declined to consider these violations because the defense lawyers allegedly failed to make the technically correct objections.  On federal habeas review, the DA successfully argued that the judge should not even consider this misconduct, because he was required by law to defer to the state court ruling, which blamed the defense lawyers for not properly objecting to the prosecutors’ misconduct in withholding the audiotape and relying on false evidence.

The DA now seems to want the public to overlook his office’s own conduct in this case and its aftermath and instead give him credit for finally taking a critical look at evidence his office has had for 23 years.