Marty Tankleff, 45 years old, just completed the bar exam. Tankleff is a respected attorney, called by his partner Steven Metcalf “a brilliant legal mind” in the world of criminal defense. The two have been working together for Metcalf & Metcalf in New York City for nearly a year after Tankleff was freed from prison. The 45 year old was among the 1,822 test takers who passed the February 2017 state bar examination. The results were released publicly early Thursday morning on April 27th.
His ability to complete the exam had not come without it’s challenges, to say the least. Tankleff was wrongfully convicted of stabbing and bludgeoning his adopted parents, Arlene and Seymour, on Sept. 7, 1988 in their Belle Terre, New York home on Long Island. He confessed in 1990 at the age of 17, and was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. However, there were clear holes in the case from the start, and Tankleff was eventually freed in 2007 after a state appeals court ruled that a trial court had wrongfully disabled newly discovered evidence concerning the likely killer to enter the courtroom simply because some of the witnesses had criminal records. A four-judge appellate panel overturned Tankleff’s conviction and a second jury then freed him on the premise that cops had duped Tankleff into confessing.
Suffolk County detectives got their faulty confession from Tankleff after lying, telling him his father had fingered him on his deathbed. “Could I have blacked out and done this? Could I be possessed?” Tankleff asked after the ordeal. Turns out, that may have been the case.
In 2014, the state of New York paid Tankleff $3.4 million to settle his wrongful-conviction claim. “It appears the [Suffolk] County Court never considered the cumulative effect of the new evidence created a probability that had such evidence been received at the trial, the verdict would have been more favorable to [Tankleff],” the Appellate Judges Reinaldo Rivera, Gabriel Krausman, Anita Florio and Mark Dillon wrote of their judgement. “It is abhorrent to our sense of justice and fair play to countenance the possibility that someone innocent of a crime may be incarcerated or otherwise punished for a crime which he or she did not commit.”
Tankleff’s father’s partner in the bagel business, Jerald Steuerman, owed him hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was playing cards with the victim on the night of the murders. Unable to make good on his debt, Steuerman evidently hired three men to kill the Tankleff family instead. A witness testified at a 2004 hearing that he was also offered $25,000 from a partner in the bagel business to kill the other partner, but the lower court initially upheld Tankleff’s conviction.
Tankleff’s attorney Bruce Barket said of his client’s release, “[Tankleff’s] first words were, ‘Finally justice has started to tilt our way. I’m telling my secretary to get champagne’. We’re thrilled.” Tankleff shared his sentiments. “I would love to emulate lawyers in the wrongful conviction movement,” he said. “Who better to understand the system than someone who’s been through the system?”