Thursday, 3 January 2008

“They All Lie”

That’s what Suffolk County (NY) prosecutor James McCready said in defense of the intimidation and psychological games he used to get then 17-year-old Martin Tankleff to ‘confess’ to murdering his parents. Tankleff is now 36 and served nearly two decades before getting out of prison just last week when an appellate court threw out his 1989 conviction.

The new county D.A. said Wednesday he won’t retry Tankleff, an admission that the case against him was rickety, to say the least. The appeals court had found ample evidence that other person or persons were involved in the double killing, and Governor Spitzer is considering a new state-led investigation, which may include a look at police misconduct.

McCready was featured in a TV investigative report on the case a few months ago and challenged on his use of a police gimmick: they told the shocked teenager (who had just discovered his parents’ corpses) that his father had recovered consciousness in the ER and fingered him as the assailant. The kid assumed he had done something in his sleep and began to confess, then promptly repudiated the confession.

The father had never said any such thing (he remained dead), but that hesitation was enough for a jury to convict Tankleff and ruin his life. The police had a suspect and didn’t bother to look into the forensic evidence that would have contradicted their fantasy construction.

Witnessing the denouement of this terrible miscarriage of justice certainly throws some light on the official use of torture to wring confessions of all sorts out of guys with Arabic surnames, then throwing away the records of same. As the probe into who knew what about the destruction of the infamous torture videos proceeds, we can fall back on Prosecutor McCready’s dictum about the suspects:


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