Tankleff offers advice in Arkansas murder case

Martin Tankleff talks on his cell phone as Martin Tankleff talks on his cell phone as he leaves court. (June 30, 2008) Photo Credit: Newsday File /David L. Pokress

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Martin Tankleff - cleared in 2008 in the case of his parents' murders - recently consulted on a high-profile Arkansas murder case that has attracted attention from actor Johnny Depp and other celebrities.

Tankleff, 38, now a paralegal at a Nassau County law firm, said Monday he recently served as an unpaid consultant to the wife of Arkansas death row inmate Damien Echols on how to find suitable legal help for her husband, who says he was railroaded into a confession in the 1993 murders of three young boys.

PHOTOS: Martin Tankleff case and aftermath

Echols, 35, and two other men, who are serving life sentences, say they didn't commit the murders. Depp is fighting to have the case reopened.

Tankleff, who now works as a paralegal at the Quadrino Schwartz law firm in Garden City, said he told Lorri Davis Echols her husband needs "zealous attorneys" who know the "true facts of the case."

Tankleff said he's never met with Depp regarding the Echols case. He said he told Echols' wife about lawyers and legal groups well-versed in wrongful conviction cases and that he recommended some legal advocates.

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Bruce Barket, one of the attorneys who won Tankleff his freedom, is a partner at the firm where his former client now works. Barket said Tankleff has done valuable work doing research, writing and investigations for the firm.

"He's smart, works hard," said Barket, noting that Tankleff has worked on cases involving people who claim they were wrongfully convicted. "Marty is ideally suited to do that, to screen those cases for us."

Tankleff, then 17, was convicted of the Sept. 7, 1988, murders of Arlene and Seymour Tankleff. The couple were stabbed and bludgeoned in their Belle Terre home. The verdict was overturned in 2007, and Tankleff was freed.

Barket would not identify the cases in which Tankleff has been involved at the firm.

Barket said the firm gets about a dozen letters monthly from inmates seeking help.

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"The word-of-mouth in the state prisons is pretty good," said Barket, explaining why prisoners contact him.

Tankleff said he doesn't plan to remain a paralegal forever. He said he plans to apply to area law schools later this year but declined to say which ones he's considering.

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