Former New York Prisoner Receives $3,375,000 Settlement for Wrongful Conviction
by Derek Gilna
A New York man who was the victim of egregious police misconduct obtained a $3.375 million settlement from the State of New York after serving 17 years in prison for two murders he did not commit. Martin H. “Marty” Tankleff of Long Island suffered an unspeakable tragedy when he awoke on what should have been the first day of his senior year in high school to find his mother dead and his father unconscious and bleeding heavily from fatal wounds. But his nightmare was just beginning.
Suffolk County police detectives K. James McCready and Norman Rein focused on Tankleff, then 17 years old, as the principal suspect in the 1988 murders of his parents, although reinvestigation in future years by defense attorneys revealed the detectives had purposely overlooked more logical suspects with whom it appears they shared more than a casual relationship.
In the course of their official police duties McCready and Rein began to spin a web of deception that would eventually ensnare them after taking 17 years to unravel. During a long interrogation at the police station the detectives lied to Tankleff, telling him his father had awakened from a coma and named him as the attacker. Following hours of pressure, Tankleff was coerced into signing a false confession; while he later rescinded that confession, he was convicted in 1990 and sent to prison.
Investigators hired by Tankleff finally uncovered the truth – that two suspects with violent criminal histories who were known to the police investigating the murders were in fact responsible for killing his parents. A state appellate court eventually vacated his convictions and Tankleff was released from prison in December 2007 when all the evidence became available and the scope of police misconduct finally became too great to ignore.
Tankleff filed a lawsuit against the State of New York in the Court of Claims for wrongful imprisonment, with attorney Barry C. Scheck, a founder of the Innocence Project, as lead counsel. After years of litigation the case settled in January 2014 for $3.375 million. See: Tankleff v. State of New York, Court of Claims (NY), Claim No. 118655, UID 2013-045-038.
A separate lawsuit filed by Tankleff against Suffolk County and Detective McCready remains pending in federal district court. See: Tankleff v. County of Suffolk, U.S.D.C. (E.D. NY), Case No. 2:09-cv-01207-JS-AYS.
Tankleff received a law degree from the Touro Law Center in May 2014; ironically, one of the classes he took was taught by one of the former prosecutors in his case. Tankleff said he plans to establish a foundation to help wrongfully convicted prisoners.
“I’ve said this all along, that I one day want to become a lawyer and advocate on behalf of those who were wrongfully convicted, to make sure that what happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else,” he said. “The system has too many innocent men incarcerated.”
Additional sources: New York Times, www.newsday.com
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login
Related legal cases
Tankleff v. State of New York
|Cite||Court of Claims (NY), Claim No. 118655, UID 2013-045-038|
|Level||Court of Claims|
Tankleff v. County of Suffolk
|Cite||U.S.D.C. (E.D. NY), Case No. 2:09-cv-01207-JS-AYS|