How much would it take to stand up and fight for the lives of those who have been wrongly accused? Martin Tankleff fought for 20 long, hard years for his own freedom, and seeks to devote the rest of his life to helping others to do the same.
On September 7, 1988, Martin Tankleff was accused and wrongly convicted for the murders of both of his parents based on a confession handwritten by a detective that Tankleff repudiated and never signed. He was only 17 years old at the time, ready to begin his senior year of high school. After being found guilty of double murder, Tankleff was sentenced in 1990 to serve 50 years to life in prison.
From the time he was sent to jail, Martin Tankleff never stopped fighting for his freedom. “Instead of starting school, I started fighting for my life.” While incarcerated, he attended college and worked in a law library. Tankleff did this not just to occupy his mind and find information about his own situation, but also with the goal of preventing others from wrongful imprisonment or perhaps worse. He knows all too well the fact that, “Serving time in prison when your innocent is a living hell,” and knew that he wanted to spare others from experiencing what he endured for twenty years.
Despite the hardships, Martin Tankleff always had faith that he would be found innocent.
Several attempts to appeal his case, including to the U.S. Supreme Court, proved unsuccessful. Finally, in 2007, the New York State Supreme Court voted 4-0 in favor of overturning Tankleff’s conviction after thirty-one former federal, state and local prosecutors argued in a friend-of-the-court brief earlier that year that Mr. Tankleff “has presented persuasive evidence” that he was wrongly convicted and deserve a new trial. His relatives posted the $1 million bail that allowed Tankleff to walk to free.
Since Tankleff regained his freedom, he enrolled in Hofstra Law School. His intention is to defend the wrongly accused. Despite the pain of his past, Tankleff has his eyes set on moving with his life. “It’s important to tell my story, but I don’t want to make it my life story,” he said.
Thank you, Martin Tankleff, for turning a dark situation into light that will illuminate the paths of others in the near future.