Monday, January 21, 2008

Laura Taichman's law school term paper inspired a pro bono effort that has resulted in the release of a young man wrongfully convicted of murder

This past Friday, my friend Laura Taichman* sent me an e-mail with a link to an article about her in The New York Law Journal, "Tankleff Pro Bono Effort Born of Ex-Classmate's Law Paper," published on January 18th.

I urge you to read the whole article because you’ll feel better for doing it, but here’s a partial description of Laura’s major role in overturning the conviction for murder of an innocent person, Marty Tankleff (link to Marty's website with lots of information about the case).

Laura grew up in Belle Terre, Long Island and went to high school with Marty. He had just turned 17 when he was arrested for killing his parents, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff, in their home on Long Island, NY. He was convicted in 1990, sentenced to 50 years to life in prison, and sent to the Clinton Correctional Facility at Dannemora, New York.

On December 24th of last year, Marty's murder conviction was vacated by New York's Appellate Division.

What did Laura have to do with the overturning of Marty’s murder conviction? Read on.

While attending Northeastern School of Law in the early 1990’s, Laura wrote a term paper on Marty’s conviction. According to The New York Law Journal article by Thomas Adcock, "’I always followed the case,’ Ms. Taichman said in a telephone interview Wednesday from her home in California, where she was once an associate at the San Francisco headquarters of Morrison & Forrester….

"’For my paper,’ she said, ‘I read all the court transcripts and interviewed all the lawyers. I never thought Marty did it. The facts didn't make sense.’

"Among the first of Ms. Taichman's doubts, she said, was a gruesome detail in the police report. Seymour Tankleff's killer or killers bludgeoned him to death, after which they performed a coup de grace commonly used by drug dealers as a warning to rivals - the so-called ‘Colombian necktie,’ whereby the tongue is pulled out from a slit throat.

"’In the days pre-Internet, I don't believe little Marty Tankleff could know of such things,’ said Ms. Taichman. ‘We were middle-class kids who trusted the cops, and believed they had nothing less than our best interests at heart.’"

You may still be asking how a law student’s term paper could result in the overturning of a murder conviction. I urge you to read the article. There are many heroes, inspired by Laura’s term paper, who took on Marty’s case pro bono. There’s also a suspect.

*I met Laura in November of 2004, when were supervising attorneys on the National Campaign for Fair Elections voter protection hotline (800-OUR-VOTE) in San Francisco. After the election, Laura, Tillie Botz, and I worked on a "Get Ready to Vote" effort with the League of Women Voters of Sonoma County and the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters. Laura is one of the brightest and nicest persons I’ve ever met.

(photo of Laura with her permission)


Dan Gurney, Mr. Kindergarten said...

Gail, thank you for sharing this inspiring story. May Marty Tankleff's new career be a long and fruitful one.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog. I read the article in the NY Law Journal and am extremely impressed with Laura. I am an attorney in NYC and also a screenwriter. I am researching a posible screenplay about the Tankleff case and would love to talk to Laura. Could you either e-mail me her phone number ( or have her call me (646-823-3617).

My name is Peter Aronson and I can be found on my law firm's Webside:

thank you. Peter