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The Fight for Justice: Marty Tankleff’s Story of a Coerced Confession and Wrongful Conviction

How a Coerced Confession Led to a Wrongful Conviction

On September 7, 1988, Marty Tankleff [1], a high school senior, woke up to find his adoptive parents brutally beaten and stabbed in their Long Island home. Despite a complete lack of physical evidence pointing to him, the investigation quickly focused on Marty as the primary suspect. 

In fact, the only evidence against Marty was a coerced confession. After hours of questioning, Marty eventually confessed to the crime, but then quickly recanted. Despite his recantation, Marty was convicted and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison for the murder of his parents – a conviction based solely on a coerced confession.

A Decades-long Battle for Freedom

Over the next ten years, Marty worked tirelessly with a team of lawyers, investigators, and advocates to appeal his case. Despite repeated setbacks, they refused to give up. Eventually, more and more evidence emerged to prove Marty’s innocence. Several witnesses came forward who implicated another suspect, and forensic testing revealed that the DNA on the murder weapon did not match Marty’s.

Finally, in 2007, Marty’s legal team was successful in securing a new trial, and in 2008, after almost two decades behind bars, Marty was finally released.

[1] Martin Tankleff is currently the Peter P. Mullin Distinguished Visiting Professor at Georgetown University, an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown Law Center, and Special Counsel to Barket Epstein Kearon Aldea & LoTurco, LLP – one of the firms that helped obtain Marty’s exoneration.

From Wrongfully Convicted to Criminal Justice Advocate

Marty’s case is a tragic example of the flaws within the criminal justice system. Despite the lack of physical evidence and the inconsistencies in his confession, Marty was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to a lifetime in prison. His story is a powerful reminder of the importance of fighting for justice and the need for reform within the criminal justice system. 

Today, Marty is a free man, a defense attorney, professor of law, and leading voice for the innocent. He has dedicated his life to advocating for criminal justice reform and helping others who have been wrongfully convicted. 

Dive Deeper into False Confessions and Hear Marty’s Story on the California Innocence Project Podcast

Listen to Marty’s full story on the California Innocence Project Podcast. Episodes will offer an in-depth look at the issue of false confessions; including the psychological and legal factors that can lead to eliciting false statements, along with a firsthand account of Marty’s incredible story.


California Innocence Project Podcast

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