Martin “Marty” Tankleff killed his adoptive parents

Martin H. “Marty” Tankleff

Belle Terre, Suffolk County, New York. On September 7, 1988, about 6 a.m., 17-year-old Marty Tankleff called 911. When police arrived at his home, they found his father Seymour, 62, unconscious on the floor of his office and his mother Arlene, 53, dead in her bedroom. Seymour Tankleff died on October 6, 1988 without ever regaining consciousness.

On June 28, 1990, Tankleff was convicted of murdering his parents, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff.

Marty Tankleff at his first trial

On October 23, 1990, Marty Tankleff was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 25 years to life in prison.

Arlene, Marty and Seymour Tankleff

On December 18, 2007, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court in Brooklyn overturned the convictions. Tankleff was released on December 27, 2007. The charges were dismissed on July 22, 2008.

In March 2009, Tankleff filed a federal civil wrongful conviction lawsuit against the State of New York and the Suffolk County police department and several officers, including detective K. James McCready. In January 2014, the State of New York settled for $3.375 million.

On May 25, 2014, Marty Tankleff graduated from the Touro Law Center. On April 2017, he passed the New York State bar exam.

Statement Analysis get to the truth, let’s examine Marty Tankleff’s emergency call and some of his statements.

Here is Marty Tankleff’s 911 call with my notes:

In a case, the emergency call represents the first interview.

911: Police emergency.

This two words allows Marty Tankleff to choose his own words and begin his response according to his own priority. Order speaks to priority.

Marty Tankleff: This is Marty Tankleff, 33 Seaside Drive in Belle Terre. I need an ambulance. Emergency.

The expectation as an innocent caller is: “My father is bleeding. We are at 33 Seaside Drive in Belle Terre” or anything close to this. Note that, instead, Tankleff identifies himself first, gave his family home’s address and asked for an ambulance for himself. He didn’t tell the operator what the ambulance is needed for, nor who is the victim in need. He told 911 that he, himself, needs an ambulance. To asks for help for himself is appropriate if the help is about how to perform CPR or First Aid. In this case, Tankleff, didn’t say “I need help” but “I need an ambulance”, showing us that the context is not CPR or First Aid for the victim. Guilty callers often ask for help for themselves not for the victim, because they are the ones in need of help.

“Emergency” is something unnecessary to say in an emergency call. 

911: All right, hold on and I’ll connect you.

Marty Tankleff: Emergency.

Note that the words “Emergency” is repeated here. Every repetition is double important for an analyst. Does Tankleff has a need to align himself with the good guys? 

911: I’m connecting you with the ambulance.

911: Fire Rescue Centre.

911: 763.

Marty Tankleff: I’m at 33 Seaside Drive in Belle Terre.

See, again, Marty Tankleff speaks about himself. He didn’t yet tell the operator the reason for calling.

Operator: Wo… wo… wo… I can’t hear you, what is it?

 Marty Tankleff: 33 Seaside Drive in Belle Terre.

Operator: 33 Seaside?

Marty Tankleff: 33 Seaside Drive in Belle Terre. It’s off Crooked Oak Road, Belle Terre. Please, my father…

Note that Tankleff introduces his father but is interrupted by the operator.

Note the word “please”. We always note the use of politeness in an emergency call, “please” could uncover a need to ingratiate himself with the operator and to align himself with the good guys.

Operator: Wo… wo… wo… hold on, I can’t write that fast.

Marty Tankleff: Thirty…

Operator: What corner street?

Marty Tankleff: Three. It’s off Crooked Oak Road.

Operator: Crooked Oak?

Marty Tankleff: Yes, yes, hurry up.

Note that Tankleff didn’t yet tell the operator the reason for calling. Note “hurry up”, it could also uncover a need to to align himself with the good guys.

Operator: No, no, no, answer my question.

Marty Tankleff: What? 

Operator: What’s your name?

Marty Tankleff: Marty Tankleff. I’m his son. He’s gushing blood from the back of his neck, he’s got a cut.

Note “I’m his son. He’s gushing blood from the back of his neck, he’s got a cut.” not “my father Seymour is gushing blood from the back of his neck” as expected. People speak in economy of words. Why does he need to introduce himself as “his son”? 

Note that ”he’s got a cut” is passive. Passivity could either be appropriate or inappropriate. It is often used to conceal identity or responsibility.

911: What happened to him?

Marty Tankleff: I don’t know, I just woke up and he is in the office, he’s gushing blood, please.

Note “I don’t know. I just woke up”. “I just woke up” is unnecessary to say and sounds alibi building. 

Note the word “please”. We always note the use of politeness in an emergency call because it could uncover the need of a guilty caller to ingratiate himself with the operator and to align himself with the good guys.

Operator: All right, listen to me, is this a private house?

Marty Tankleff: Yes, it is.

“It is” are unnecessary word.

Operator: Alright, now listen.

Marty Tankleff: It’s a red driveway.

Operator: Listen to me. I’m sending you an ambulance. I want you to take a clean towel.

Note that the operator “wants” him to take a clean towel while Marty Tankleff never asked her on how to perform First Aid to his father.

Marty Tankleff: Yes.

Operator: Wrap wherever he’s gushing blood from.

Marty Tankleff: Okay.

Operator: Hold pressure on it.

Marty Tankleff: Okay

Operator: Lay him down if possible.

Marty Tankleff: Okay.

Operator: Get his feet elevated and we’ll have someone down there for you.

Marty Tankleff: Okay.

ANALYSIS CONCLUSION

Deception Indicated

Analysis of some excerpts from some interviews Marty Tankleff released in the years:

What we look for in the following statements is for Marty Tankleff to issue a reliable denial.

A reliable denial is found in the free editing process, not in the parroted language and has 3 components:

1. the pronoun “I”

2. past tense verb “did not” or “didn’t”

3. accusation answered

If a denial has more than 3 or less than 3 components, it is no longer reliable.

“I did not kill my parents” followed by “I told the truth” while addressing the denial, it is more than 99% likely to be true. This would be the “wall of truth”. 

The “wall of truth” is an impenetrable psychological barrier that often leads innocent people to few words, as the subject has no need to persuade anyone of anything.

We begin every statement analysis expecting truth, and it is the unexpected that confronts us as possibly deceptive.

A deceptive person will alter his denial to avoid a direct lie.

On October 1988, after he was released on bail before his trial, Tankleff said: Someone has taken my parents away from me in a brutal manner and I unjustly have been charged with their murders. I can’t wait to all the truth (inaudible) out. Thank you.

Note that Tankleff didn’t issue a reliable denial, as expected from someone that “didn’t do it” but chose to use 32 words to try to persuade his audience that he didn’t kill his parents. Tankleff is unable or unwilling to say the following few words “I didn’t kill my parents. I told the truth”. 

Note that Tankleff chose to say “Someone has taken my parents away from me” not “Someone killed my parents”. This is minimization. Minimization is a distancing measure, it’s a way to avoid of dealing with negative emotions by reducing the importance and impact of events that give rise to those emotions, it’s a common strategy used by guilty people to deal with feelings of guilt.

An ex Judge, Stuart Namm, interviewed Marty Tankleff for a TV show, “A Question of Guilt”:

Stuart Namm: Could I take you back now, Marty, to September 7, 1988? Could you tell us your best recollection of what time you woke up and what you did when you first woke up that morning?

Marty Tankleff: Uhm… waking up in the morning, uhm… shortly before six, uhm… and I’m…

“Uhm” is a pause to think, an indicator that Tankleff needs to focus on what to say because the question is sensitive to him. Note the locations of the three pauses.

Note that he says: “Uhm… waking up in the morning”, not “I woke up in the morning”, as expected.

“Uhm… waking up in the morning” does not have a pronoun. A dropped pronoun means no commitment. Pronouns are instinctive for us as we use them from the earliest days of speech.  When someone drops a pronoun, the person is removing himself from the sentence. Tankleff removes himself from his answer because lying is stressful. 

Note “I’m” not “I was” as expected. Tankleff speaks at the present tense when asked about a past event. He speaks at the present tense because he is not fishing in his experiential memory.

During the same interview, Marty Tankleff said to Judge Stuart Namm: I’m a victim of circumstances, I’m a victim… of the system of this country uhm… of the way people research brutality to solve financial problems, but I’m innocent, you know, and… there is somebody out there or some people who know the truth, you know, for my sake, for my parent sake, for my family sake, it’s all I want, I want the truth to be told.

Note that Tankleff used 67 words to try to persuade his audience that he didn’t kill his parents but was unable to issue a reliable denial. He was unable to say the following few words “I didn’t kill my parents. I told the truth”.

Note “but”. The word “but” disproves what preceded it. Here is a nonsense to say “I’m a victim (…) but I’m innocent”.

Note “you know”, a signal that Marty Tankleff is acutely aware of the interviewer’s presence at this point of the interview.

Note that Tankleff says “there is somebody out there or some people who know the truth”, not “somebody out there killed my parents” as expected. Tankleff allows for the possibility that the truth is that he killed his parents.

During another interview, Marty Tankleff said: I kept saying, “It wasn’t me”, and they kept saying, “We don’t care. Just tell us what we want to hear. We want to know it’s you”. You get to a point where you start doubting yourself… you just want to escape that environment. I was brought up that cops don’t lie. When the cops turned around and said: “Your father said you did it”, I started to doubt myself because I knew my father would never lie. But I knew in my heart and my soul that I wasn’t responsible for this.

Note that, during his first interview with police, Tankleff was unable to issue a reliable denial, he was unable to say ”I didn’t kill my parents”. “It wasn’t me” is an unreliable denial, that’s why the cops didn’t believe him.

Note that Tankleff says “You get to a point where you start doubting yourself… you just want to escape that environment” not “I got to a point where I started doubting myself… I just wanted to escape that environment” as expected.The use of “you” is distancing language that indicates a form of deception. In other words: He is unable to use the pronoun “I” because he would lie and, to avoid the stress of lying, he distances himself from the reality using “you” instead of “I”. 

Note that Tankleff is even unable to say “I knew in my heart and my soul that I din’t kill my parents”. “I wasn’t responsible for this” is an unreliable denial, moreover he qualifies his unreliable denial with “I knew” and “in my heart and my soul”. Note also “this”, a word that indicates closeness.

“I knew in my heart and my soul” allows for the possibility that “in his mind (head, intellect)” he knows differently. 

During another interview released from prison, Marty Tankleff said: I never should be convicted. I never should be charged. The system has incarcerated an innocent man for fifteen years. I loved my parents, I had nothing to do with their murders. It didn’t kill them, they were my best friends, they were… my teachers, my instructors.

Everyday you wake up, you know that you don’t belong there and… every hour of that day is striving to get out of jail. I have a great family support system and I have great upbringing so, you know, I always knew that I had to believe in things and strive for what I believe in. Detectives say the way I look, the way I acted. It could never hurt that. It can never hurt any of my family members. I had absolutely nothing to do with their deaths.

Tankleff is unable to issue a reliable denial, he is unable to say “I didn’t kill my parents. I told the truth”. Guilty people usually don’t lie but make statements which only sound like a denial, this is the case.

“I never should be convicted” is not a reliable denial.

“I never should be charged” is not a reliable denial.

“The system has incarcerated an innocent man for fifteen years”, who is he talking about? Tankleff doesn’t speaks for himself.

Saying “I loved my parents”, “they were my best friends, they were… my teachers, my instructors” he shows a desire to be seen in a positive light.

“I had nothing to do with their murders” is an unreliable denial. 

“It didn’t kill them” is quite interesting. Look at the pronoun “It” here. This is very manipulative. Marty Tankleff is unable to use the personal pronoun “I”, he is unable to take ownership of what he is saying. He is unable to say “I didn’t kill them” because he would lie.

Lets analyse the second part of this statement:

Note that he says: “Everyday you wake up, you know that you don’t belong there”, not “Everyday I wake up, I know that I don’t belong here”, as expected. The use of “you” is distancing language that indicates a form of deception. In other words: He is unable to use the pronoun “I” because he would lie and, to avoid the stress of lying, he distances himself from the reality using “you” instead of “I”. 

Note again the use of “It” instead of “I” in the following sentence: “It could never hurt that. It can never hurt any of my family members”. In any case, “I could never hurt that. I can never hurt any of my family members” are not reliable denial either. 

The word “Never” is often used by liars to avoid a specific time frame.

Note”hurt” instead of kill, this is an attempt to minimize to reduce the stress.

“I had absolutely nothing to do with their deaths” is an unreliable denial.

Marty Tankleff: I don’t think anybody can really understand what be convicted of a crime you didn’t commit is like. There is no word that it really describes that. The system has incarcerated an innocent man, something is not right with the system.

Note that Tankleff is not speaking for himself when he says “a crime you didn’t commit”. He is unable to take ownership of this sentence using the personal pronoun “I” because he did commit the crime.

“There is no word that it really describes that”, it’s true, especially for people that did commit the crime they were charged and convicted for.

When Tankleff says “The system has incarcerated an innocent man”, he doesn’t specify who this “innocent man” is, therefore we assume that he is not speaking for himself.

“something is not right with the system” is certainly true but doesn’t imply that the system “is not right” in Marty Tankleff’s case.

Marty Tankleff: I knew I should never have been there but there was also everyday that little sense of hope that innocent people don’t get convicted.

Note that he doesn’t speak for himself but about “innocent people”. 

On June 7 1990, during his first trial, Marty Tankleff testified. Here some exchanges between him and the prosecutor John B. Collins:

John B. Collins: Why did you kill your father?

Marty Tankleff: Absolutely not.

Note that Tankleff is unable to say “I didn’t kill my father”, neither parroting the DA’s words. The absence of a denial, it is a concern. “Absolutely not” is an evasive answer. Moreover, he adds emphasis to his answer through the word “Absolutely” showing a need to persuade.

John B. Collins: (after finding your father) What did you do? 

Marty Tankleff: Ran up (inaudible) screaming Dad, dad, dad, and when I get off I saw his slit throat (inaudible) I called 911.

“Ran up” does not have a pronoun. A dropped pronoun means no commitment. Pronouns are instinctive. People drop the pronoun “I” to remove themself from the sentence. He removes himself from his answer because he is unwilling to tell a outright lie.

John B. Collins: Did you kill your mother?

A “Yes or No” question.

Marty Tankleff: No, I didn’t.

A reliable denial is found in the free editing process and has 3 components: the pronoun “I”, the past tense verb “did not” or “didn’t” and the accusation answered.

“I didn’t” is not a reliable denial as the denial is parroted and incomplete, the third component is in fact missing. 

John B. Collins: Did you kill your father?

A “Yes or No” question.

Marty Tankleff: No. I loved my parents. I Had nothing to do with this.

“No” is a good answer, but when “No” is not alone, we count each word that follows weakening the response. 

Saying “I loved my parents” Tankleff shows a desire to be seen in a positive light.

“I had nothing to do with this” is another unreliable denial. 

ANALYSIS CONCLUSION

Deception Indicated.

Marty Tankleff killed his parents.

He never issued at any time a reliable denial, he never said “I didn’t kill my parents. I told the truth”, and he showed multiple times a need to persuade. Tankleff accepted what the de facto innocent doesn’t accept: he allowed people to believe he is involved. There is no “wall of Truth” within him. The “Wall of truth” is an impenetrable psychological barrier that commonly leads an innocent de facto to few words as he/she has no need to convince anyone of anything.

Tankleff was not wrongfully convicted. A criminal injustice was to set him free.

I agree with Marty Tankleff, if it could happen to a patricide, like he is, it could happen 2 anyone. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Martin Tankleff- National Registry of Exonerations

Martin Tankleff- Murderpedia

Martin Tankleff- Wikipedia

Coerced Confession

A Question of Guilt

Miscarriage of justice- Marty Tankleff Case- Bad Confession