A look at 3 civil rights claims settled in New York City

AP News
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Posted: Feb 22, 2015 11:58 AM

Three civil rights cases settled by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer without a lawsuit ever being filed.

DAVID RANTA

David Ranta was convicted in the death of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger during a botched robbery in February 1990. He spent 23 years in prison though no physical evidence linked him to the crime and the diamond courier never identified him as the bandit. One witness said a police lineup that helped convict Ranta had been rigged. He was released in March 2013.

He filed a $150 million notice of claim. He settled for $6.4 million in February 2014.

"This settlement is in the best interests of all parties and closes the door on a truly regrettable episode in our city's history," Stringer said in a statement. "I am pleased that my office was able to move quickly on this case."

Ranta's attorney said the settlement would give his client stability and allow him to put his life back together.

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JEROME MURDOUGH

Mentally ill former Marine Jerome Murdough died in February 2014 after being left unattended for hours in a cell that sweltered to 101 degrees because of malfunctioning equipment. The 56-year-old's death came a week after his arrest on misdemeanor trespassing charges. His family was not told of his death until nearly a month later when contacted by The Associated Press.

His family filed a $25 million notice of claim. It settled for $2.25 million.

"A mother lost a son, the city lost a citizen," Stringer said. "It is my hope that this settlement provides some small measure of closure for the family of Mr. Murdough. The expedited resolution of this case is in the best interest of all parties."

The family's attorney, Derek Sells, said the amount was akin to what a jury might find reasonable, and he was glad Murdough's relatives would not have to go through a court fight. "It would be years and years of litigation," he said. "The victims of that tragedy suffer throughout."

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ROBERT HILL, ALVENA JENNETTE, DARRYL AUSTIN

In May, a judge agreed to throw out the decades-old murder convictions of three half brothers. Alvena Jennette, Robert Hill and Darryl Austin spent a combined 60 years in prison. Their cases involved retired homicide detective Louis Scarcella, whose tactics — including reliance on a crack-addicted witness — have come into question. In a statement, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said the decision to disavow the convictions was based on a "comprehensive review" of dozens of Scarcella's cases that began in 2013 after another man convicted of murder was released on new evidence that the detective had coached a witness.

They each sought $150 million and settled in January for $17 million total. Austin died in prison 14 years ago; his mother received $3.85 million, Jennette received $6 million and Hill received $7.15 million.

"I am pleased that my office was able to resolve these claims," Stringer said.