Tankleff court date postponed to review new DNA tests


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June 17, 2008

Martin Tankleff will have to wait at least another two weeks to find out whether prosecutors intend to drop the murder charges against him in his parents' 1988 slayings or retry him, attorneys in the case said yesterday.

Tankleff, 36, was scheduled to return to court in Riverhead yesterday for what he hoped would be a decision from the state attorney general's office. But both sides agreed to a postponement until June 30, in part to give attorneys time to review new results of DNA tests related to the case.

Tankleff was found guilty in 1990 of killing his parents, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff, in the family's Belle Terre home.

After he served 17 years of a 50-year-to-life sentence, the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court reversed his conviction in December, ruling that a lower court had failed to consider new evidence that implicated other possible suspects.

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota announced in January that he intended to dismiss the charges against Tankleff, but before he could, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo took over the case as a special prosecutor.

Tankleff remains free on bail, but the 1988 murder indictment against him is still in effect.

The two sides last met in court in February, when prosecutors asked for four months to investigate the case. In that time, investigators have interviewed several witnesses and introduced evidence in the case to a grand jury.

"The parties jointly requested this continuance due to lab results newly available to both parties," said Alex Detrick, a spokesman for Cuomo.

Tankleff's attorney, Bruce Barket of Garden City, said he and Tankleff did not mind the delay.

He said the new lab results involved DNA tests in the case. Tankleff's defense team had long urged Suffolk prosecutors to conduct DNA tests of fingernail clippings and scrapings taken from Arlene Tankleff after her murder. Barket would not comment on the lab results, other than to say it was "nothing earth shattering."

In its December ruling, an appellate court ordered the material from the fingernails to be turned over to defense attorneys.

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