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Martin Tankleff enrolls
By: John Leschak
Marty Tankleff attended his first class at the University last week. Although the first day of class is exciting for any student, it meant much more to him.
Tankleff has spent the last 18 years in prison for the murder of his parents, Arlene and Seymour Tankleff, at their Suffolk County home. But the Second Department of the N.Y. Appellate Court overturned Tankleff's conviction last December.
Today he is 36 and trying to get his life back together-starting from scratch.
The court's decision was the end result of a mass movement led by two dozen of Tankleff's relatives, including his aunts and uncles and a team of pro bono lawyers.
Tankleff's supporters have been unwavering in their belief of his innocence, citing many instances of error and injustice in his case. Among the supporters' complaints is the fact that the Suffolk County police never investigated another prime suspect of the crime: Jerry Steuerman. Mr. Steuerman was Seymour Tankleff's business partner and owed him over $500,000.
"Marty Tankleff was wrongfully convicted based on a coerced, false confession," said Lonnie Soury, Tankleff's spokesman. "He is moving ahead and very excited about going to Hofstra."
Tankleff is taking two classes for the semester as he works towards earning a Bachelor's degree in sociology. He earned an associate's degree while in prison, Soury said.
Some students thought nothing unique of Tankleff's attendance at the University. "He has as much of a right to go here as anybody else," said business major Aaron Mitnicka.
"I think that it's great that he chose to come to Hofstra to continue his education," said Mike LaFemina, an education graduate student, "and I think he has a lot of wisdom that he can share with our community."
Kimberly Iannucci, a freshman, said that Tankleff "should have the ability to get an education as long as he was not a threat to anyone."
Some students thought that Tankleff's case says a lot about the U.S. criminal justice system. "It's terrible that this type of failure is all too common in our system," said sophomore sociology major Izzy Goodman, "and Tankleff is far from the only person who has been falsely accused and imprisoned."
Melissa Connolly, the vice president of University Relations, said that all students are admitted through a standard admissions procedure, and all students are entitled to the rights and privileges extended to each member of the Hofstra community.
"As a registered student here at Hofstra University, Mr. Tankleff is also a member of our community," Connolly said.
News Editor Samuel Rubenfeld contributed reporting to this story.