Tankleff's Lawyers Move Ahead

 Attorneys for Belle Terre man convicted in 1988 slaying of his parents appeal judge's denial of a new trial

 BY ALFONSO A. CASTILLO
 Newsday Staff Writer

 April 19, 2006

 Far more optimistic about their chances of success now outside of Suffolk courts, Martin Tankleff's lawyers have taken their first steps in appealing a judge's decision rejecting the former Belle Terre man's bid for a new trial on charges that he murdered his parents.

 In a unique tactic, Tankleff's motion for leave to appeal, filed Monday in a Brooklyn appellate court, includes briefs and letters of support by numerous legal defense groups and experts on false confessions, who say reversing Tankleff's 1990 conviction is vital to upholding justice.

 "I don't think that our justice system can keep Marty Tankleff in jail and retain its legitimacy," said Tankleff's attorney, Bruce Barket of Garden City.

 Tankleff, now 34, was convicted of murdering his parents, Arlene and Seymour Tankleff, and is serving a sentence of 50 years to life in prison.

 At a lengthy hearing before Judge Stephen Braslow, Tankleff's defense team presented new evidence they said proved Tankleff's innocence and implicated Seymour Tankleff's business partner Jerry Steuerman, and two men the defense says were hitmen, Joseph Creedon and Peter Kent. All three men deny the charges.

 Braslow denied the motion to overturn Tankleff's conviction last month.

 Tankleff's lawyers say they are confident about their chances outside of Suffolk, where, they say, prosecutors obstructed their investigation into the case and Braslow ruled without considering much of the evidence.

 In a statement, Tankleff's family said they "look forward to an impartial review of the facts."

 Assistant District Attorney Leonard Lato said Tankleff's appeal is meritless.

 Among the issues raised in the 98-page motion are that Braslow rejected a motion for new DNA testing because he said the defense waited too long to ask for it, and dismissed testimony from experts on false confessions.

 Tankleff's defense team enlisted the help of National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Innocence Project of Manhattan and the Center on Wrongful Confessions of Chicago.

 "It's unusual to have a number of groups responding so quickly just for an application," said Innocence Project founder Barry Scheck. "I think that it reflects how troubled the legal community is by the county court's decision."