Meet the Exonerees

Marty Tankleff

State: New York
Date of Birth: 1973
Incident Date: 09/07/1988
Age at Arrest: 17
Conviction Date: 1988
Age When Exonerated: 37
Exonerated Date: 2008
Time Served: 20
Conviction: Double homicide
False Confession: Yes
Implicated by Another Youth: No

Case Details

Seventeen-year-old Marty Tankleff woke up on the morning of September 7, 1988 in his Long Island home to discover his parents brutally stabbed and beaten; his mother was already dead, and his father was unconscious and barely alive. The police considered his reaction to the murders to be surprisingly unemotional, so he immediately became the prime suspect. Marty was taken to the police station and interrogated for hours, where he insisted that he was innocent for hours even after the police told him that they knew he must have committed the murders. The lead investigator fabricated a story to tell Marty in which Marty's father, after receiving an adrenaline shot at the hospital, briefly regained consciousness and announced that Marty was his attacker. Knowing that his father would never lie and naively believing that law enforcement would not deceive him either, Marty began to question whether he might have actually committed the crime. In a desperate attempt to make sense of his father's statement and to escape this lengthy and hostile interrogation, Marty used the facts fed to him by police during his interrogation to construct a realistic-sounding confession to the murders. Though he never signed the confession, and repudiated it mere minutes later, this confession served as the basis of his double murder conviction and the resulting sentence of fifty years to life. It was not until almost twenty years later that an appellate court determined that it could not ignore the more than two dozen witnesses put forth by the defense team who implicated a group of suspects connected to Marty’s father’s former business partner, and the court vacated Marty’s conviction. Citing insufficient evidence, the special prosecutor did not retry Marty, and all charges against him were dropped.