Tankleff Appeal: Murder Trial Unfair
By Carolyn Colwell
Staff Writer

August 16, 1992

Attorneys for Martin Tankleff, convicted of bludgeoning and slashing his parents to death in their Belle Terre home in 1988, have filed an appeal claiming that Tankleff did not receive a fair trial because of the judge's bias, an improper summation by the prosecutor and juror misconduct.

In addition, the 138-page brief submitted last month to the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn contends that Tankleff's confession should have been suppressed because it was coerced.

Drew Biondo, spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney's office, said, "We're very confident that the conviction will be upheld."

After a 10-week trial, Tankleff was convicted in June, 1990, of murdering his parents, Arlene and Seymour Tankleff, just after dawn on Sept. 17, 1988. He was sentenced to 50 years to life.

Hours after the murders, Tankleff, then 17, allegedly admitted to Suffolk County homicide detectives, "Yeah, I did it," and explained he'd acted because he resented having to drive a 1978 Lincoln and having to do chores.

Mark Pomerantz, a Manhattan attorney who led the appellate team, said, "We took a very strong position that he is innocent and that the confession, which is the basis of the jury verdict, is something the jury should never even have heard." Pomerantz added, "By the time Tankleff began to confess, he was in police custody, and he didn't get his Miranda rights."

In his brief, Pomerantz pointed to Tankleff's statement that he rose at 5:35 a.m., killed his parents, cleaned up, showered and lay down for a few minutes all before he called 911 at 6:10 a.m., timing that even homicide detectives testified they didn't believe.

The brief also charges that Assistant District Attorney John Collins was improperly allowed to mention in his summation that the defense didn't call certain members of Tankleff's family to testify, which Collins characterized as indicative of Tankleff's guilt. Tankleff's trial attorney, Robert Gottlieb, had tried to prevent Collins from being allowed to mention missing witnesses because the witnesses were Tankleff's sister and brother-in-law and the family attorney, who Gottlieb said were under the control of the prosecution.

The brief also accuses Suffolk County Court Judge Alfred Tisch of bias because he didn't step aside when both he and Gottlieb were being considered as candidates for district attorney.

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