Martin Tankleff

NY Man Exonerated of Murdering His Parents to Become Lawyer

Martin Tankleff said he plans to practice criminal and civil rights law and help defendants with wrongful convictions

What to Know

  • A New York man who spent 17 years in prison for the murders of his parents before his conviction was thrown out is expected to be sworn in as a lawyer
  • Martin Tankleff was admitted to the New York State bar on Wednesday after passing the bar exam in 2017 but faced a long approval process for admittance
  • Police said Tankleff confessed to killing his parents in their Belle Terre, Long Island, home in 1988 after a detective falsely told him his father had awakened from a coma and implicated him

A New York man who spent 17 years in prison for the murders of his parents before his conviction was thrown out was sworn in as a lawyer on Wednesday.

Martin Tankleff was admitted to the New York State bar, making him one of a small number of exonerees practicing law in the state, Newsday first reported.

Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, said Tankleff passed the bar exam in 2017 but faced a long approval process for admittance to the bar. Tankleff graduated from Touro Law Center in Central Islip in 2014. He has taught at both Touro and Georgetown University and worked as a paralegal at a law firm in Manhattan.

Tankleff said he plans to practice criminal and civil rights law and help defendants with wrongful convictions.

“Part of me wants to help educate the legal system to the pitfalls, to prevent wrongful convictions -- what things to be wary of and what to look for," he said.

Tankleff's parents were bludgeoned and stabbed in their waterfront home in 1988 in Belle Terre, on Long Island. Police said he confessed to the crime after a detective falsely told him his father had awakened from a coma and implicated him. Tankleff, who was 17 at the time of his parents' deaths, quickly recanted and refused to sign a written statement police had prepared.

An appellate court overturned his conviction in 2007. He was awarded a $10 million settlement in 2018 following a federal court lawsuit against Suffolk County.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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