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NY man freed on bail 17 years after convicted of killing parents in one of first TV trials

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Posted: December 27, 2007 5:14 p.m.
Updated: January 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    NEW YORK — A man found guilty 17 years ago of murdering his parents as a teenager was freed from prison Thursday, days after an appeals court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial because of new evidence.
    Martin Tankleff, 36, was released on $1 million bail and thanked his friends, supporters and witnesses who came forward ‘‘because it was the right thing to do.’’
    An appeals court threw out Tankleff’s 1990 conviction last week, saying new evidence suggested someone else might have killed Seymour and Arlene Tankleff in their Long Island home.
    ‘‘I was as upset when Marty was convicted as I was the day I learned that there were murders,’’ said his aunt, Mary Anne McClure. ‘‘Now we can mourn my sister properly, because we haven’t been able to for 19 years.’’
    Tankleff was 17 when his parents were bludgeoned and stabbed in their house in 1988. After a detective falsely told the teen his father had awakened from a coma and implicated him, Tankleff confessed to the crimes. But he quickly withdrew the confession, refusing to sign a statement police had prepared.
    He was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison after being convicted in one of the nation’s first televised trials.
    Private detectives working on Tankleff’s behalf later turned up witnesses who implicated a business partner of his father’s and others in the killings. The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Brooklyn said it was probable that a new jury would render a different verdict if given a chance to hear all the evidence now available, including how the police obtained Tankleff’s confession.
    The case had raised questions about coercive interrogation tactics and drew the support of the Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people.
    ‘‘It’s a great day for justice in New York and in the country generally,’’ said Barry Scheck, the project’s executive director.
    Relatives paid the bail, allowing Tankleff to leave the courthouse after the hearing in Riverhead, N.Y., 75 miles east of Manhattan. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota did not immediately say whether he would seek to prosecute Tankleff again.
    Tankleff’s attorney, Bruce Barket, said he was ‘‘very pleased’’ about Tankleff’s release and was awaiting the district attorney’s decision on whether to retry the case.

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