Cop, half-sister, juror say '90 verdict was correct


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April 24, 2008

Martin Tankleff said this week that mistakes and bad judgment by others -- from the detective who tricked him into confessing to killing his parents to the prosecutors who brought the case -- led to his incarceration for a crime he did not commit.

But his half-sister, Shari Mistretta of Port Jefferson Station, a juror, Victor Muglia of Deland, Fla., and K. James McCready, the former homicide detective who took Tankleff's confession, said the 1990 verdict was the right one.

In Tankleff's first interview since being released on bail after an appeals court overturned his conviction for killing his parents in their Belle Terre home in 1988, he said, "Everybody involved had a role. ... Obviously, some had more responsibility. ... The system is supposed to have this level of checks and balances, and it just failed."

McCready, who Tankleff said would have been exposed for using overly coercive tactics had the interrogation been videotaped, dismissed Tankleff's claim.

McCready said a videotape would not have shown any unlawful coercion and he pointed out that Tankleff did not deny during the trial that he gave police the confession.

"He's lying through his teeth," said McCready.

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, who didn't bring the original case, had no comment on the Tankleff interview Wednesday. But prosecutors have defended the conviction and disputed the new evidence.

For her part, Rother said the system got it right, and that she hopes Tankleff is retried.

She said Tankleff was wrong to accuse her of not showing interest in the new evidence. "Been there, done that," she said, adding that she followed the case even though she was rarely in court.

A juror, Victor Muglia, said the jury voted properly given the evidence, but that they would have come to a different decision if they had seen the new evidence.

"The evidence we had was overwhelming," Muglia said. "It was a tough decision for everybody involved."

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