For those not already familiar with the story of Marty Tankleff, his case began on the night of September six, 1988, when Marty was just about to start his senior year of high school in an affluent area of Long Island, New York. Martin's father was an entrepreneur and investor who was playing poker with some friends and business associates in the house that night. Marty awoke to two absolutely gruesome scenes in which both of his loving parents had been brutally beaten and stabbed.
His mother was dead. His father was dying. When authorities arrived, they kept him separate from any of the adults in his life as they focused their investigation solely on Marty. Instead of Marty's father's business partner, Jerry Storeman, who all signs pointed to being the obvious suspect in this awful crime in our original 20 17 release of Marty Story. We touched on many of these details, but at that time, with ongoing civil litigation, we were not at liberty to delve more deeply into the details of the reinvestigation of Martin's case that ultimately led to his exoneration.
In this episode, you'll hear excerpts of that original interview, which included both Marty and false confession experts all Kasit to set the stage for not only the evidence and witnesses that made Marty Freed impossible, as well as all the amazing things Marty has been able to accomplish since winning his freedom, but also what Marty intends to do to bring closure to this harrowing tragedy. This is wrongful conviction with Jason. Let me tell you about a podcast that I'm addicted to, it's called Labyrinths and it is hosted by two of my favorite human beings.
Might I call her my little sister, Amanda Knox, and her partner, Christopher Robinson. If you're like me, you're navigating your own personal maze. I mean, life takes you down these winding paths, dead ends, short cuts in the Amanda and Christopher delve into stories of getting lost and found again through compassionate interviews. But much more than that philosophical rant, playful, really entertaining debate with fascinating people and I mean really amazing people. Season one features interviews with Andrew Young, Malcolm Gladwell, Jon Ronson, Dave Navarro.
I mean, LeVar Burton expect to arrive at unexpected places when you listen. Check it out. Labrador's wherever you get your podcasts.
Welcome back to wrongful conviction with Jason Flom especially excited today, because I have two people who I consider to be well, let's just call it what it is. They're heroes of mine, but for very different sets of reasons. Marty Tankleff is here today. Marty is an exonerated who was wrongfully convicted of murdering his parents, which I get the chills just hearing myself say that. And he's going to share his remarkable story of going through what could be considered one of the most traumatic experiences that any human being could ever endure.
And his subsequent triumph post exoneration. You will be amazed at what he's been able to accomplish and overcome. We also have today saw Kassin saw pioneered in the 80s the scientific study of false confessions by introducing a taxonomy that distinguish between three types of false confessions voluntary, compliant and internalized that is universally accepted today. He has recently studied forensic confirmation biases and the impact the confessions have on judges, juries, lay witnesses, forensic science examiners and the plea bargaining process.
He is widely considered the foremost expert on false confessions.
So welcome, both of you. Thanks for coming in and joining us today. Thank you for having us. Marty, let's start with you. So let's go back to you. Grew up in Long Island.
I grew up in an affluent area called Beltane York, which is a little hamlet in Port Jefferson, New York, Northshore, Suffolk County. I went to Port Jefferson High School where the norm was. We drove nice cars, we went on boats. And what happened to me was not something myself or anyone in my neighborhood could have ever imagined. No, no one could imagine it.
You had a happy childhood, nuclear family, right?
You and your sister, your parents idyllic, a little bit more idyllic because I was adopted. So my parents were older. So a lot of what we did growing up, my father live vicariously through me because he didn't have a very good childhood. So, you know, we had the boats, the ATVs, we traveled a lot. People used to joke that I was a spoiled kid and I was. But my father instilled amazing work values in me.
I was working since I was probably 11 or 12 years old.
And he was the bagel king. Right. My father was an entrepreneur who invested with Jerry Sturman, who was then known as the Bagel King of Long Island. My father had invested over a half a million dollars with Jerry and his bagel stores and horses. And in the summer of nineteen eighty eight, their relationship significantly deteriorated. When I later learned was is that we believe my father learned that the bagel business may have been a money laundering operation for Jerry son toge drug dealing business.
And we're talking hard drugs now. Drugs.
Todd was arrested, went to prison for possession of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs, and he served time in New York State prisons. But my father was a tough older man. Nothing would stop him. And one of the things that he was involved with was, is there was a weekly poker game. And on September 6th, it was his night to hold the weekly poker game. And one of the members at that game was Jerry Storeman. My father was the type of man it didn't matter, you know, how much threatening Jerry Osterman did.
And there were threats. We later learned about two weeks before September 6th, Jerry Stearman threatened to cut my father's tongue out. And it got so bad that my father was even looking into buying a shotgun because he was fearful.
Now we've set the stage. There's the poker game, right? There's obviously it's a tense environment, right, with the two of them in the room. But you went to sleep?
I went to sleep because September 11th was the first day of my high school year. I was going to be a senior and I woke up and my life was never the same again. The lights were on in my house. The house wasn't locked up. Walk through the house. You were upstairs. It's a ranch house is a very long ranch house where the bedrooms were in one end of the house where the card game was was in the complete opposite end of the house.
So you wouldn't have heard? I would have heard anything.
And I discovered my father, who was still sitting in his office chair, and he was alive and he was bleeding. And would you do I call nine one one and I follow their instructions? They told you to wrap them as best you could, give you some medical tips, whatever. Try to stop the bleeding. That kind of stuff. Right.
And within a short time, law enforcement showed up at the house. Where's your mom? My mother was actually in her bedroom. Cops come and immediately they remove me from the house. And when I kind of can say now, is that the process of questioning me, trying to find out what happened started almost immediately. Even when I had family members show up that morning, there was this immediate separation. When my brother in law showed up, he was ripped away when my godfather, who was also the family attorney, showed up, I saw him.
He never saw me. But McCready, who is the lead detective, his name is James McCready, was the lead detective on the case, ran to him and basically told them I was already on the way to the hospital. I wasn't at the house even though I was at the house. I was told consistently I was being taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, I was never taken to the hospital. I ended up being taken to police headquarters.
At this point, were you aware that your mom had been killed? Yes. So you're in a state of total shock.
Panic? Words can't describe it.
Your parents were beaten to death, is that right? There was a bludgeoning instrument and a knife. And to this day, neither one has been discovered. And there was some forensic evidence, which I can talk about. There was glove prints. So whoever did do this were wearing gloves that they still haven't found the gloves. So, I mean, there's all these little things that actually the jury was aware of, but they chose just to ignore.
So they took me to police headquarters because and obviously this whole sort of pattern is emerging right where they wanted to. They had an agenda.
Yeah. I mean, you know, at that day, I didn't know that I was 17 years old. My father was the police commissioner of our little community. I was raised to trust law enforcement, believe in them. Law enforcement wouldn't lie to you. They wouldn't deceive you. Unfortunately, that's everything that they did that morning.
Right. And you're in an extremely fragile state and you need help. Right? You need someone to help you. You're 17 years old, right? We know that they have misled. Is it not? Probably a nice way to put it. His family guardian at this point. Read your godfather, who is also the only lawyer that was available to you at this time.
They kind of misled everybody, though. I mean, I had other cousins and aunts and uncles who were at the hospital and they were lied to, too, they were told Martese on the way to the hospital. Ma's on the way to the hospital. Right.
So they're basically doing everything they can to prevent you from having any responsible guardian or legal representative that might be able to stand in the way of them getting the conviction that they wanted regardless of truth.
Yes, there was no truth seeking here. I mean, you have a man who was business partners with my father. Half a million dollars involved was there the night before. My father also had in the weeks prior had demanded he had two notes. Fifty thousand dollars. Back in the days after the murders, Jerry Sterman cleaned out a joint bank account. He faked his death. He fled to California. He had a hair weave back then and he went to a club that he wasn't a member of.
He had five or six different aliases at that moment, but law enforcement never considered a suspect. And every time I tell people, you know, the average person would say, well, how is he not a suspect?
I mean, you could have stopped that. He faked his own death. So let's get to the the interrogation and the false confession and prison and the whole saga solid. I mean, you're obviously very familiar with Morris case. You've known, Marty, since 1993 is all right.
He started writing letters to me from prison in 93. So here's Marty in a state of panic and shock and grief. And as we discussed, he's still a child and his confession is different than any of the other ones I've studied. Right. Because it may or may not have ever even actually happened. Right. Right. Usually they actually get somebody to say something on video or they'll get a written statement or something. But in Marty's case, it's much more highly nuanced, isn't it?
Yes. Yes. And in Marty's case, you've got to ask yourself the first question. Why did Marty, a 17 year old without a criminal record, without a history of violence, with good parents and good relationships in an affluent community, why would Marty kill his parents in a brutal way in a brutal in the most brutal of ways? And you ask yourself the question, how in God's name did he become their suspect?
You know, most people said, well, you know, he did it for the money because they thought my parents were affluent. The way the wills were structured, I would have gotten everything. And we later learned that law enforcement never really understood the way the wills and never looked into the way the wills were structured. I wasn't going to benefit financially till I was twenty five and I was seventeen. So, you know, as one of my aunts said, what was he supposed to do from seven to twenty five live on the streets?
So it's all there he is in the interrogation room. Alone, alone, 17, not street wise, never been in trouble before, never had to worry about how do you behave when you get picked up by police? He had done nothing wrong. And the funny thing about innocent people is even if they had read him his Miranda rights, he would have waived those rights that most people do. So Miranda becomes not a safeguard that's particularly effective at this point.
Keep in mind, they've got him in police headquarters. The whole family is with his father, who is dying but still alive in the hospital. That's where Marty wants to be. So he's already in a state where he's motivated to cooperate and they start asking him questions about what he saw, how he saw it, what had happened. And he gives them answers. And the answers are consistent. They don't believe them. They tell them they don't believe them.
They asked for the story to be told again and they're searching for inconsistencies and they're calling him a liar. And they're not believing the story that he keeps telling over and over again. But then they shift gears and they shift gears toward a procedure now where they start to lie about the evidence. Now, the average American doesn't realize that in the United States, police are allowed to bring in a suspect and lie about the evidence. They're allowed to say to the suspect, we have your fingerprints on the murder weapon.
Even if that's not true, what happened in Marty's case is they bring him in. They say, well, you know, it appears that your mother was in a struggle and there's hair in her grasp and it turns out it's your hair. We did the analysis of your hair and that confused Marty wasn't true, but he got confused as to how that was possible. And then because it was such a bloody scene, it was too bloody scenes. There just wasn't enough blood on my body to account for that.
They suggested to him that he had showered before calling 911 one. He said, no, I didn't use the shower. They came back and said what? We did a humidity test in your bathroom. And we found that the shower had been used that morning. Humidity, a humidity test. I don't believe even on CSI, they've given us a humidity test. Now they've delivered to lies. And then the detective delivers the ultimate lie. He leaves the room.
There are two detectives in there. The lead detective McCready leaves the room, stages a phone call and comes back to deliver the news to Marty. Marty, I've got good news and I got bad news. I just spoke to the folks at the hospital. The good news is your father has come out of his coma. He's regained consciousness. The bad news is he said you did it. Think about this for a month, get sick, it's really saying you've got a 17 year old and you're now delivering one lie after another, culminating in a lie that Tamani, the person he trusts most in his life, has just said he committed this crime.
And not only did Marty, of course, had no choice but to believe that that evidence, because he doesn't believe police would lie to him, certainly not like that. Even McCready's partner believed that presentation. So what choice does Marty have now? But to wonder, how is it possible that they have this kind of objective evidence? My father doesn't lie, he said. Marty has almost no cognitive choice but to accept that information because he's got two things right.
His father doesn't lie and the cops don't lie. Right. These are the two things that he believes. Exactly.
So those things lead to one conclusion, one conclusion.
I must have done it. And the conversation turns to memory, consciousness, the possibility of sleepwalking and doing it without awareness and generate theories for Marty to explain how come you don't remember doing this.
So we know that that was the nature of the conversation. We know that for some degree of of transient time, Marty became confused about even his own innocence.
His confession was a handwritten statement handwritten by the detective that is inaccurate as a description of the crime. It doesn't complete itself. That's actually ends in midsentence and it is unsigned. This confession, the so-called confession was written by the detective and not signed by Marty. And yet that allegation of that confession is the one and only piece of evidence that was used to convict him.
You're at trial. You still believe that justice is going to be at trial?
Still believe it. I mean, this is what the lawyers are telling me. The system works. I was innocent. I testified on my own behalf. The prosecutor charged me with intentional murder and depraved indifference murder. So when we got called back in, the first verdict was read, was not guilty. And then all of a sudden the second one was guilty. The one thing I vividly remember is the walk after they read the guilty verdicts over to the county jail because they had these tunnel systems.
And I remember just I felt like I was being led like a dog because I was just listening. And I remember getting to the property room and I remember the problem officer saying, What are you doing here, Marty? And I go, why else would I be here? And then everything else went blank for about the next six or seven days.
But now you're thrown into this environment. You're in maximum security prison, is that right? Yeah, I was basically every day to fight for your life because you never know in maximum security facilities what could happen, whether it be the gangs going to war with each other, the officers taking their aggression out on you, or just the random attacks that occur just for no reason whatsoever.
Right. I mean, we know that people are being killed every day in prisons in America, sometimes by guards even. Absolutely.
For me, my case was very high profile. So prisoners knew about the case, guards knew about the case. And I had a guy come up to me and he said, listen, he goes, if you want to survive. He says, don't do drugs, don't get the drugs, don't get around homosexuality, don't get involved in gambling gangs, he said, and work your way into the college program with the law library. He said one of the hardest things is once you're innocent is getting out, he said, but you'll figure out a way to do it.
My lawyer said, OK, what's never been done here before? And we said a full investigation. And that's when I started looking for private investigators and ended up hiring Jay Salpeter. And one of the things that Jay said to me was, if you're innocent, hire me. If you're guilty, don't. I said, I'm innocent, I'll hire you. I just find the truth. Jane And it took years. You ended up serving six thousand three hundred thirty eight days, which is about 17 and a half years.
Now that we're up to speed from our 2017 release and with party civil litigation out of the way, he was finally able to tell us about the mountain of exculpatory evidence that they built, how his freedom came to pass, all of the amazing things he's been able to accomplish. And, of course, his plans to finally bring the people who conspired to murder his parents to justice. But this isn't evidence slowly emerged over the years, pointing towards a conspiracy involving at least Peter Kent, Joseph Creedon, Glenn Harris.
And, of course, the stories and more continues to come to light to this day. But the process started back in the early 90s when a woman named Carlene Kovacs went to a party. In the early 1990s, Joseph Creating, who was an enforcer for Todd Studeman, was at a party where he admitted his involvement in the murders to Carlene Kovacs. So the idea that Halstrom injuries two men were responsible for this not only from day one, but every year subsequent to my conviction investigation, more and more evidence would come forward continuously pointing back towards the stories.
And it was around 1990 to 1993 when we presented the DA's office with that information. And as the years would go on throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the court system failed me.
It feels to me like the tide started to turn around. 2003, when you hired Jay Saltpetre.
Jay started from the very beginning, was kind of like who benefited financially? And let's just start branching out from there. The criminal ties around the Stallman's was pretty well known when Jay took on this case of investigating it, and he just started looking at Todd and Jerry Studeman and started branching out. And eventually they found Glenn Harris. Glenn Harris said something to the effect that I've been waiting for this day for 12 or 13 years.
Glenn Harris gave a sworn statement saying that he had been hired by Storeman to drive the two hitman, Joe Creadon and Peter Kent, to and from the Tankleff House where you lived on the night of the crime.
And that just kind of started the snowball effect. We assembled a body of evidence of witnesses, and in two thousand five, we presented everything to the Suffolk County D.A. with the hopes that with their subpoena power and wiretap power that they would actually take a real serious look at this case. And we said, you know, if you don't do anything after forty five days, we will file a post conviction motion in New York. And we learned that it wasn't until the forty fourth day that they actually went out and went to interview the first witness.
And we thereafter filed a post conviction motion. Judge Breslow granted a hearing and throughout the hearing of various technical issues came up and more witnesses came forward.
Throughout the hearing, Carleen Kovács claimed that Joe Creedon told her about how he and another man hid in the bushes outside the Tankleff house, evaded capture and got rid of the bloody clothes. And then there was more there were family members of the killers, right? There were weapons that were actually had been hidden that were found. Am I wrong about that, Marty?
So the culminating witness at the hearing was Joseph Creedon son, who said that his father confessed to him of his involvement. There was a pipe that was discovered on a piece of property that Glenn Harris said a pipe was thrown. Nobody knows if the pipe was actually used, but what are the chances that somebody could know or say, look, go search on this piece of property? We threw something there eighteen years ago, seventeen years ago, and it was found the actual murder weapons, the knives have never been found.
By now we're talking about twenty five. Twenty six. That defense your team had assembled twenty witnesses, twenty who all painted collectively a picture of how Storeman had orchestrated these murders. Two of the witnesses had seen McCready with Storeman just before the murders. Hello. There was also the matter of the murder weapon not having been found. There was a bloody stain of what appeared to be a knife imprinted on one of lead Tankleff sheets. But no match was found suggesting that someone had taken it.
But justice was right around the corner, right? So March 17th, 2006, the petition for the new trial was denied, but then December twenty seven. Tell us about that.
Well, in New York State, after you finally post conviction motion, you have to seek permission to appeal the case. Thankfully, the appellate division that had denied me relief in nineteen ninety three had granted me permission to hear my case. And my lawyers argued before four amazing judges in September of twenty seven. And I remember it was December that I was calling home, calling the lawyers every single day, trying to find out how the decision come down. And I had four different appeals in the appeal division, including one for a new trial, one for DNA testing.
So I was finally able to get through to one of my lawyers offices and the receptionist said to me, she's like, don't tell Bruce. I told you what, we won the big one. And my legs started to shake a little bit. And I kind of almost didn't believe it because he was kind of that moment when you are just waiting for that day for day after day, year after year. And when I finally spoke to Bruce Barcott, I'll never forget his words.
He said, pack your shit, you're coming home and you'll never see the inside of a jail cell again. And at that very moment, don't ask me why I said this, but I was kind of sarcastic and I said, Bruce, I said, I've been studying the law long enough. I said, it's an oral agreement and I'm going to hold you to it. And he kept his word. I was brought down to this Suffolk County jail December twenty six, the day after Christmas, and on December twenty seventh I was freed and I have never returned to a jail cell since.
So Bruce Burkhardt kept his word in the book, A Criminal Injustice, which is I recommend so highly. It reads like a Grisham novel, but it's true. And you lived it. And in that book, one of the things that sticks out so much and about your story is that Suffolk County was like a criminal enterprise. And I'm talking about the justice system. Can you describe it?
Well, I think it was best described. I think it was William Hellerstein described it as the wild, wild west of law enforcement and the court system. And essentially, he said, is that in Suffolk County, they do whatever the hell they want to do, whatever they want to do it, because they are almighty. And I think that almighty attitude can be traced back to the homicide division, where in the 80s they used to wear these shirts that said ninety nine percent and that referred to their confession and conviction rates for homicide cases, and they were proud of it.
And Suffolk County has a long history of turmoil and corruption. When the attorney general reinvestigated the case during some of the post conviction proceedings, they uncovered forensics that were in the possession of Suffolk County the entire time and they proved to be exculpatory nature. It just goes to the depths of how sinister and evil the criminal justice system was in Suffolk County back then, even up to recently, where the district attorney that was in office during my post conviction litigation, Tom Spota, was recently criminally charged while he was a district attorney.
When Tom Spoto was in private practice, he and his firm had represented Todd Sturm and Jerry Storeman and the chief of police, William Burke was also criminally charged and he went to prison.
It's unbelievable. And this gets deeper and deeper because McCreadie, the detective, was under investigation for perjury. And let's not forget, the Creedy went into business with your sister, who became the heir to the family fortune.
Shortly after my conviction, my half sister threw a celebratory party at a country club for family and friends. And right around the same time, I went into business with the money she received from my parents estate with the lead detective who put me in prison. And they opened up a bar restaurant Figaro in into Riverhead, New York. Yeah, I didn't want to go down in history as being known as the person who was convicted of murdering my parents because I didn't do it.
And nobody stands criminally charged or convicted of those murders as of today. I knew that I wanted to continue fighting, so the truth came out and we continue to explore every lead. And even to this day, we've had new witnesses who have come forward. And the only reason why they've come forward was because Peter and Joseph Green have died. They've come forward with exculpatory evidence that no one has ever heard before or that I'm hoping by the end of the year it will get out there.
Are you still hoping for the authorities to do what they should have done decades ago and prosecute the people responsible for this tragedy?
There is a new district attorney who ran on a line of exposing injustice. He set up a conviction integrity unit. He has clearly stated time and time again that he owes no allegiance to the prior administration. And I'm currently working on putting a package together. I'm confident that any fair minded prosecutor, if they look at the body of evidence that we have now, someone should be criminally charged. And I'm going to be asking the Suffolk County district attorney's office to reopen the case.
July 22nd, 2008, the charges were dismissed and your life began again or anew. I mean, you hit the ground running and there's so much to talk about still, because there's the federal civil suit against New York State and the Suffolk County Police Department. And this was not a frivolous suit. In fact, in July 2014, New York State settled for three point three seven five million, and in twenty eighteen, Suffolk County settled for another ten. They didn't do that willingly.
They did that because they had no way out. I mean, you had them literally dead to rights and then you go and graduate from law school. Now, I mean, seriously, Marty, like, are you trying to make the rest of us look bad? It's awful. I was going to say that, you know, when you when you say get up and start running, it was three weeks after I was out of prison. I started finishing my bachelor's degree at Hofstra.
And I knew that what I went through, no one should go through. And if there was somebody that could help make a difference, it would be me. I am out now. I'm a lawyer. I'm also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. And it's a law school.
There's a very hard to miss message of what the rest of us have as an excuse not to live out our dreams. I mean, that's an unbelievable transformation and I am so, so proud of you. So you're now the head of the Prison and Civil Rights Litigation Group at Metcalf and Metcalf. You're living your best life. And they say living well is the best revenge. I mean, I think you can attest to that. But we can't leave alone.
The other thing that you're doing now, which I'm going to I'm going to guess is probably the most rewarding thing other than your family of everything, which is, of course, the making and exotic program. You're, of course, as we talked about, an adjunct professor at Georgetown. Let's just say that again here, a professor at Georgetown, like, what the hell anyway? And you're working with your childhood friend and my dear friend, Mark Howard Koh, teaching a class called Making and Exonerate.
And one of the students from that class was on this show in our episode of the awful, awful case of Turell Barrows. And she said and I think any of the students would say that her life has been forever changed by this experience. So please, anyone, go back and listen to the Tuberose episode. Taurel really needs and deserves our help. Listen, and you'll get some ideas of how you may be able to make a difference in his life.
He's just as innocent as Marty was and is.
So tell us about some of the people that you've helped wherever you want to go with this, you know, just to give people a little background and they can find a lot more on our website making exonerate dotcom. Mark and I have been friends since we were three years old, going to lovey dovey preschool. And after I got out, Marc would invite me to come down to his class and speak to them about my experience about the criminal justice system.
And as the years went on, we started talking about the idea about teaching a class together and the idea of making Examiner re kind of came together one day, just us talking, taking undergraduate students and having them reinvestigate real cases of men and women in prison, try to track down new witnesses and try to develop a body of evidence that could help get them exonerated. And their final project was to create short documentaries. And we started the class in twenty eighteen and one of our cases was Valentino addiction.
And our students were able to uncover enough evidence that we shared with Valentinos lawyer and he was exonerated in September of that year. And each year our students have done this amazing work and there's not a single student who's taken our class that hasn't walked away and said that the opportunity to try to impact someone's life is life altering for them. Our students become friends with the individuals who were incarcerated. Tragically, John Moss, who is from our first semester, our students uncovered evidence that convinced the Innocence Project to represent him.
Tragically, he passed away and Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year. But the students became so close to him and his family, they went to his funeral. I mean, it's kind of unheard of that students can develop a bond like that. Every one of the student groups, even after they've graduated, continue to work on any of the cases that they were connected with. And if they're in a position where they can work, they want to know what's going on.
Because in volunteer Dixon's case, when he. Walk free in September of twenty eighteen and Julie, who were two of the young women that worked on this case, flew back from France and England to be there when he walked out of prison. And I think it's something that they will never forget their entire life. And Valentino has said time and time again that they have lifelong friends and if they ever need anything, he would be there for that. The relationship you develop with these men and women is just different.
You know, we walk in and we tell our students that there's no guarantees here other than you putting a thousand percent in. And they do more than that. Our students can sometimes work 30 hours a week outside of class. They travel around the country. They track down witnesses. They confront former prosecutors. In one case, they confronted a currently sitting judge who was a former prosecutor. There really is no fear that our students have. And it's just, to me, an amazing experience having the opportunity to work with them.
And it really hasn't doesn't even feel like work. Sometimes it feels like such an honor and a pleasure to work with students that want to come to class, want to work, want and sacrifice their time. And I remember this year when the idea of spring break or going to see somebody in a maximum security prison during spring break, our students said, who cares about spring break? Let's go to prison. Who cares about spring break? Let's go to prison.
Wow, that really to say it on. The fact is that those of us who work in this area know that the first time you get to be a part. I don't care how small the part is of helping somebody out of this Kafkaesque nightmare. It is unlike anything else that I've ever experienced. And it makes me feel useful. You know, you now get to live that to the tenth power, to the nth degree, whatever you want to call it, because you're doing it again and again and you're doing it from a place that the rest of us can't possibly understand and doing it for all the right reasons.
So it's wonderful to see and people can go to making and exonerate dotcom and see these eight minute videos which are so powerful. And I know that every one of those students is going to be forever changed by this experience and they're going to become freedom fighters in their own right. And so there there goes the Marty Tankleff force multiplier effect. Marty, you've been on this show before. You know how it works at this point. We turn to my favorite part of the show is the part of the show we call closing arguments where, first of all, I thank you for being here, sharing your story and just being this sort of beacon of hope and light that you are.
And then I turn off my microphone, leave yours on for what we call closing arguments.
I remember when I told you about becoming a lawyer, I said, you know, I said, I don't think I can ever reach the pinnacle of exonerations of Barry Scheck or Steve Gerizim or anybody like that. But I know from instrumental in helping one innocent person to walk free, you know, I kind of joke. I've done my job and I was there the day Valentino walked out, but I'm far from over. You know, it is so rewarding.
And I know, Jason, you've had the opportunity to be there when people walk free and been involved in exonerations, it even impacts your life in a way that I think nothing else does. And I know one of my lawyers said, you know, those who do this work are doing God's work. And he explained it was simply that when you fight to get someone who's innocent out of prison, you're almost giving them an opportunity, new life. So it's almost like a rebirth for them because some of them have been locked up longer than they were free.
And now all of a sudden you help them gain their freedom back. It really is probably some of the most rewarding work. And, you know, Mark is somebody who is just amazing because, you know, Mark was a tenured professor of government and it was because of his involvement and his choice to go to law school, to join my defense team, to fight to get me out of prison, that his career essentially changed where he teaches prisons and justice.
He goes into prisons and teaches college credit courses. He's established the Frederick Douglass Project. And Mark and I have made a decision that we will teach this class every year going forward just because so many innocent people don't have the ability to have their voices told. You know, after Just Mercy came out, I told our students that you have to watch this scene where Jamie Fox is talking to his lawyer after the evidentiary hearing and he says something to the effect that even if I don't get out of prison, I'm good because the truth came out.
And that's what we empower our students to do, get the truth out there, because those are incarcerated. That's what they want. We can't control the criminal justice system, but we can control investigating this case and telling the stories and having those who are incarcerated have their stories told through our voices. I think anybody who walks away and watched the videos will just find that our system is so flawed on so many levels and everyone across America can do something because that's a question I'm sure you get asked all the time, what can we do?
And we tell people, you know, find something you're good at and just offer to help, you know, whether it be writing a letter. Somebody is in prison, social media development, sharing, passing along petitions. If there are fundraising efforts, do fundraising, because so often people sit back and say, I'm not a lawyer. I know nothing about the system. And when I tell people that the system is about humanity at its core because our.
System succeeds and fails based on humans, on so many levels that if we go deep into our hearts, we can find something that we can do to make a difference.
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It really helps. And I'm a proud donor to the Innocence Project, and I really hope you'll join me in supporting this very important cause and helping to prevent future wrongful convictions. Go to Innocence Project Dog to learn how to donate and get involved. I'd like to thank our production team, Connor Hall and Kevin Ortiz. The music and the show is by three time Oscar nominated composer DJ Ralph. Be sure to follow us on Instagram at wrongful conviction and on Facebook at Wrongful Conviction podcast.
Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom is a production of Lava for Good podcast in association with Signal Company No. One. For NPR ex.