The news of the appellate court's ruling, and Marty Tankleff's impending freedom, was on the front page of all the New York papers yesterday. For the first time, Bruce Lambert's excellent coverage of the case appeared on A1 of The New York Times, above the fold, right next to the day's lead story, "9/11 Panel Study Finds That C.I.A. Withheld Tapes."
In "Jailed 17 Years, Long Island Man Gets Second Trial," Lambert writes, "Friday’s decision, a unanimous ruling by a four-judge panel in the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, granted a new trial for Mr. Tankleff, who is now 36. It also renewed attention to questions he has raised about police and prosecutorial methods in Suffolk County, where a State investigation found rampant misconduct in the 1980s." The article quoted Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, who said the case "had all the earmarks of a classic false confession." And Pace law professor and former prosecutor Bennett L. Gershman said, “The big question is what happens now. You have three people walking at liberty — Creedon, Steuerman and Kent — who are potential killers. Is [Suffolk County DA Thomas] Spota going to continue on the case? I don’t see how he can.” Of the appellate ruling, Gershman said, “Finally you have an objective, fair-minded view of this case, which has never happened before.”
A separate piece in the Times on Saturday, "Triumph for an Inmate, and a Persistent Investigator," was a profile on Marty's private investigator, Jay Salpeter, who called Friday, the day of the appellate ruling, "one of the happiest days of my life."
In "Appellate panel overturns Tankleff case conviction," Barry Scheck told Newsday for their cover story, "This is a great day for justice in the state of New York."
In Newsday's companion piece, "'No joy' for prosecutors if case retried," criminal law professor Richard Klein of Touro Law Center said, "Believe me, there's no joy in the DA's office to retry this case. The prosecution is going to have no new evidence. All the new evidence is coming from the defense."
A third piece by Newsday on Saturday, by Zach Dowdy with Michael Amon, was headlined, "About a new trial, Tankleff kin say 'bring it on.'" In the article, Marty's cousin Ron Falbee "said he hopes Suffolk prosecutors decline to retry Tankleff. If they do, however, he said legal momentum and mounting public opinion are also on their side now. 'I think a retrial would be a waste of Suffolk County's money - but bring it on,' he said. 'We feel very confident we have the evidence. It would just add to the farce for them to do it again.'"
The New York Post's cover story, with a huge headline blazing 'FINALLY JUSTICE', led with, "In a bombshell decision, an appellate court yesterday overturned the controversial murder convictions of a Long Island man who has spent 17 years in prison for the grisly slayings of his parents."
The Post's companion piece, "Heat's on 'Boasting' Hoodlum," stated that "several witnesses - including his own son - have testified that Joseph Creedon, of Selden, LI, while publicly denying involvement, has privately boasted about the murders of Arlene and Seymour Tankleff."
In their cover story, Court bounces case of Long Island man jailed 17 years for slaying parents, the Daily News wrote that a four-judge appellate panel "unanimously overturned his conviction and said it's 'probable' a second jury would acquit him because cops tricked him into confessing and his lawyers have uncovered new evidence."
In "Court grants retrial to LI man jailed 17 years in double slaying," the Associated Press, like other news outlets, quoted what might become the most memorable line from the ruling: "It is abhorrent to our sense of justice and fair play to countenance the possibility that someone innocent of a crime may be incarcerated or otherwise punished for a crime which he or she did not commit."
The New York Law Journal, in "Tankleff Conviction Upset, Panel Orders a New Trial," writes, "In a 21-page decision highly critical of Judge Braslow's ruling, the Second Department held Friday in favor of Mr. Tankleff, throwing out the convictions and ordering a new trial." The Law Journal noted that the appellate court considered the County Court's decision a "misapplication of its gatekeeper function relative to the evaluation and admissibility of the proffered new evidence."
Today, in "DA agrees on Tankleff release until new trial," Newsday reports Spota as saying "Martin Tankleff should not spend another day in jail while awaiting a new trial." Spota also told Newsday, regarding whether he thought Marty killed his parents, "I never said that he did or did not." Newsday recounts the conflicts of interest Marty's supporters have "long accused Spota of having," namely, "As a private attorney, Spota represented K. James McCready, the lead homicide detective on the case, in 1993 when he was accused of robbery and assault. McCready was acquitted in a bench trial."
Also today, the Times did a follow-up entitled, "Detectives’ Interrogation Tricks Under Scrutiny After Court Ruling," writing, "In its ruling on Friday, the appellate court said detectives had 'utilized a ruse' in interviewing Mr. Tankleff. It did not offer an opinion on the validity of the 1988 interrogation. But the ruling did say that the nature of the confession, 'how the confession was obtained' and the quick recanting, combined with circumstantial evidence produced during the last few years that pointed to other suspects, were enough for a new trial."
Finally, in "Overturned conviction leaves a murder mystery," Newsday writes, "Now, with the prospect that Tankleff will be free on bail by Friday, his life hangs in the balance again. His future may depend on this question: Were his parents murdered over a past-due debt owed by a shady business associate?...Defense attorneys implicated Steuerman at Tankleff's trial. Any future trial will surely focus on him, with charges bolstered by several witnesses who say associates of Steuerman's son Todd have privately admitted killing Seymour and Arlene Tankleff."