The family of a man wrongfully convicted of murder has sued the city of New York and police officers for $15 million, although the man has already reached a settlement with the city.
After spending more than two decades in prison for the murder of a Hasidic rabbi, was released in 2013, after a reexamination of the evidence showed all but certainly that he did not commit the murder, The New York Times reports. An eyewitness said police detective, Louis Scarcella, whose methods have come under attack, coached him to pick Ranta from the lineup. Two other witnesses admitted they lied.
In February, Ranta reached a $6.4 million settlement with the city, as a result of a decision by city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, to pay Ranta before he had filed a lawsuit. Usually, the Times says, the city defends such cases, which can take years to decide. Stringer argued that the settlement would save the city money by avoiding a drawn-out trial and the potential for a large jury verdict. Stringer also said the settlement was the right thing to do morally.
The suit filed by Ranta’s former wife, son and daughter names the city, the Police Department, Scarcella and his partner, Stephen W. Chmil. The family members claim their civil rights were violated because they were “deprived of their intimate familial relations with David Ranta,” and they were “branded as the family of a murderer,” the Times reports.
This is the first federal lawsuit naming Scarcella or Chmil since allegations about their methods surfaced. Scarcella has been accused of fabricating confessions, abusing witnesses, and failing to turn over exculpatory evidence. A New York Times investigation uncovered his use of an unreliable witness, Teresa Gomez, in six separate murder cases. Brooklyn district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, is reviewing all 57 convictions obtained through Scarcella’s case work, and has already released some of those who were convicted.