Martin Tankleff served 17 years in prison, convicted of murdering his own parents.
Last Thursday, the middle-age man who spent half his life behind bars settled with Suffolk County, N.Y., for $10 million. Following a chamber vote, the Ways and Means Committee of the local legislature approved the full amount for disbursement.
Tankleff reached another, $3.4 settlement with New York State in 2014.
Spokesmen for Suffolk County refused to comment on the settlement and its outcome.
As the New York Times reports, Suffolk County hasn’t yet admitted any wrongdoing in its pursuit of a conviction against Tankleff. However, Emma Freudenberger, attorney with Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, said the settlement is “a long-awaited acknowledgment of Mr. Tankleff’s innocence and the suffering he’s gone through.”
While Tankleff knew the committee was due to meet and discuss his settlement last Thursday, he hadn’t expected a decision to be delivered so swiftly. Pleased with the outcome but otherwise distracted, the 46-year old man said he was “more interested about what was happening tomorrow than about the settlement.”
Tomorrow, for Tankleff, was the last session of a class he’d been teaching at Georgetown University with lifelong friend Marc Howard.
Howard, convinced of Tankleff’s innocence, became a lawyer to help fight for his friend’s freedom. Tankleff himself, writes the Times, recently passed the New York bar and hopes to enter practice later this year.
The last day of class fell close to a date with tragic significance for the man.
Three decades ago, a 17-year old Tankleff woke up in his family’s Long Island home. He found his parents’ cut, slashed and bludgeoned bodies downstairs.
Two years later, Tankleff was convicted of their murder. He wasn’t released from prison until 2007.
The New York Times recounts the circumstances surrounding the investigation in terrifying detail. Tankleff’s convictions, writes the paper, were based in part upon a confession conjured up by a detective and later attributed to the 17-year old suspect.
Later, law enforcement falsely claimed that Tankleff’s father had emerged from a coma, accusing his son of being the attacker. While that never happened – the elder Tankleff had died prior to the detective’s arrival – investigators tried convincing the boy that he could have blacked out, suffering a psychotic fit and falling into a homicidal rage.
Asking Tankleff to acknowledge the possibility, detectives framed their hypothesis as a confession. Tankleff never signed the paper – and, in fact, quickly renounced its suggestion – but was nevertheless convicted, in large put due to its existence.
Tankleff hopes that his legal team can help catch whoever was really behind the killing of his parents.
In the meantime, he’s looking forward to joining the New York State Bar.
“I look forward to being admitted to the bar in the next few months,” he said, “and working on wrongful convictions to make sure there’s no more Marty Tankleffs.”