Adoption Forensics and the Tankleff Case

Oct 13, 2009 - by David Kirschner, PhD. - 0 Comments

March 3, 2008 updated July 25, 2008

Marty Tankleff and Parents

After serving 17 years for the 1988 murders of his adoptive parents, Marty Tankleff's conviction was overturned by an appellate court in December, 2007. On July 1, 2008, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced that he would not retry Tankleff.

by David Kirschner, Ph.D.

The Martin Tankleff courtroom saga may finally have come to an end. Tankleff, 36, was released from prison in December, 2007, after serving 17 years for the 1988 gruesome murders of his adoptive mother and father, Arlene and Seymour Tankleff, in their Belle Terre, L.I. mansion. An appellate court overturned his 1990 conviction, because of "new evidence," suggesting that somebody other than Tankleff might have committed the crimes; and on July 1, 2008, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced that he would not retry Tankleff.

After an extensive five month investigation/review however, Cuomo did not exonerate Tankleff, stating that "although there is some evidence that the defendant Martin Tankleff, committed the crimes charged, after 20 years the evidence is insufficient to . . . prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did so. . . There was no sign of a break-in or of a robbery, and the defendant who was the only other person in the house, was unharmed. . . The defendant made vague but incriminatory statements to a family member and direct confessions to some fellow inmates in prison.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Cuomo's chief trial attorney, concluded that making a case against Tankleff was no longer feasible. Legal technicalities and changes in the law would bar prosecutors from trying him in his mother's murder. Another factor in the decision not to retry Tankleff is the passage of time, resulting in "dimming recollections" of some witnesses and the deaths of others.

Cuomo also stated he had no plan to indict any of the possible killers Tankleff named, saying, "We have found no forensic evidence linking any of these persons to the murder."

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