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New York man settles wrongful-imprisonment lawsuit for $3.4 million

By Haley Draznin, CNN
updated 2:40 PM EST, Wed January 8, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Martin Tankleff served 17 years for killing his parents
  • He settled his wrongful-imprisonment lawsuit for $3.4 million
  • Tanklett plans new suit against Suffolk County and ex-detective

(CNN) -- A New York man who served nearly two decades in prison for killing his parents has settled his wrongful-imprisonment lawsuit against the state for more than $3 million.

Martin Tankleff, 42, served 17 years in state prison after being convicted in the September 1988 murder of his parents, Seymour and Arlene. An appellate court vacated his conviction in 2007, with all charges against him dismissed the next year. The court ruled that he probably would not have been convicted if newly discovered evidence at the time had been presented at trial in 1990.

The $3,375,000 settlement resolves a claim brought by Tankleff in 2010, Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, said Wednesday.

In a statement released by Tankleff's legal team, he expressed his satisfaction with the lawsuit.

"I'd like to thank my family and friends who have stood by me for the past 25 years," Tankleff said.

Tankleff was 17 when his parents were found stabbed and bludgeoned to death in their Belle Terre home on the North Shore of suburban Long Island.

When police arrived, Tankleff was questioned and told that his father had awakened from a coma and accused him of the crime. Suffolk County investigators, led by Detective K. James McCready, extracted a confession from Tankleff that was used to convict him.

According to court documents, Tankleff "repeatedly and consistently" told police that his father's business partner, Jerard Steuerman, was responsible for the deaths. Steuerman owed Tankleff's father a substantial amount of money and was the last of a half-dozen card players to leave a high-stakes card game at the Tankleffs' home the night before the murder, according to documents filed when Tankleff was trying to get his conviction vacated.

Steuerman maintained that he was not involved in the crime and dismissed the assertion as "ridiculous."

"If he did not do it, he deserves the three and a half million," Steuerman said Wednesday. "Let him use it in good health, and that's all I have to say."

With the lawsuit against the state behind them, Tankleff and his legal team plan a lawsuit against Suffolk County and McCready, the former detective on his case.

"We have developed powerful new forensic evidence demonstrating Marty's innocence and showing that his parents were murdered by assailants who acted with efficiency and brutality," Barry Scheck, Tankleff's attorney, said in a statement.

Said Tankleff: "I hope to expose the misconduct that caused my wrongful conviction so that it does not happen to anyone else."

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