Has an innocent man been serving time in prison for murders he did not commit? His family insists he has, and now they say they have the evidence to prove it.
A judge in Long Island, N.Y., has agreed to listen to the new evidence, which could result in the reversal of a 14-year-old verdict.
In 1988, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff were brutally attacked in their Bell Terre, N.Y., home. Arlene Tankleff was dead on the scene. Seymour Tankleff was mortally wounded and died a month later without ever regaining consciousness. Their adopted son, Marty, called 911 to summon police. The cops quickly centered their.
How could it be that there were two brutal attacks in a house, and Marty managed to sleep through it all? The police questioned Marty, and at one point lied to him, telling him that Seymour had regained consciousness and implicated Marty. A confused Marty confessed to the crime, though he later recanted. Nevertheless, the confession was powerful evidence in the trial and Marty was convicted and sentenced to 50 years-to-life in prison.
Marty and his family have always maintained his innocence. Through detective work, they think they have uncovered the true killers.
"We believe we have the real killers, or at least we have, let's say, 95 percent of the story," says Marty Tankleff's cousin Ron Falbee to The Early Show. "There are still some connections to make. The primary thing for us is Marty doesn't belong in jail. So let's get him out. Secondly, we would very much like to see some justice done for the Tankleffs. At this point in time, we believe their killers are still out there. They're walking around. We don't believe that they received justice. I don't know whether that's going to be possible, considering the way the authorities have messed up this case."
Marty Tankleff's aunt Marianne McClure links the possible outcomes to an analogy of three doors.
She explains, "The outcome could either be the first one, which would be a miracle, is that the judge would say that Marty could go free. The second one would be that Marty could be retried. And the third one, I equate to being door number three, is they would pat Marty on the back and say, 'You know, you need to go back to prison now. This foolishness is over.' Obviously we're praying for the first one. We feel there is enough evidence."
Asked if she ever doubted Marty Tankleff's innocence, she says, "Of course. I couldn't dismiss somebody that killed my sister. And just take for granted that, no, he didn't do it. Of course we have questioned him. We've tried to trip him up. We've tried to keep him up late. We've done everything. But this child - well, he's still a child to me, because he's been in prison since he was 17 - did not do this. Just there is just no way. He just doesn't have the temperament to do this and there is no hidden personality. And there was no evidence."
After the long wait, the family says, Marty Tankleff, is full of nervous anticipation. Falbee says, "Last night, I spoke to him. And he's excited. He's nervous. I think he's a bit frightened. But I would say that nervous is probably the best answer."
The Suffolk County district attorney's office declined The Early Show's invitation to talk about the case.