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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Defense Attorney and Exoneree Named to Georgetown’s Mullen Professorship

Georgetown University recognized Martin “Marty” Tankleff, an exoneree and defense attorney, with the Peter P. Mullen Distinguished Visiting Professorship in the department of government. Tankleff will be honored as the new Mullen professor on March 28. 

The award honors prominent lawyers with the opportunity to lead a series of workshops and lectures. Tankleff’s career in the legal field began after he was coerced into an unsigned confession and wrongfully convicted in 1990 at the age of 19 of his parents’ murder. Although he was charged in 1988, when he was 17, and sentenced to 50 years to life, Tankleff’s supporters, including his childhood friend Georgetown Government professor Marc Howard, zealously fought for his freedom. Tankleff was released from prison in 2007 after a private investigator discovered new evidence in the case that cleared Tankleff. 

Following Tankleff’s release from prison, he obtained his bachelors and juris law degrees. After being admitted to the New York State Bar in 2020, Tankleff was sworn into the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Tankleff and Howard currently teach an undergraduate course titled “Making an Exoneree,” where students learn how to free innocent people through advocacy and storytelling. 

Georgetown Prisons And Justice | Exoneree and defense attorney Martin “Marty” Tankleff will lead a series of lectures and workshops as the Peter P. Mullen Distinguished Visiting Professor.

Tankleff said his background prepares him for the position in the government department. 

“My unique and diverse background, life experiences and professional experiences have prepared me for this distinguished position, which I am honored that Georgetown has bestowed upon me,” Tankleff wrote in an email to The Hoya. 

Tankleff follows a long line of prominent public officials, lawyers and diplomats that have served in this distinguished professorship. Most recently, the position was held by current White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain (CAS ’83).

Howard, who grew up with Tankleff in Long Island, N.Y., said Tankleff’s passion and values make him the perfect fit for the position.

“Marty is a perfect fit for the Mullen Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Georgetown. He is a true leader and role model, and he absolutely loves teaching at Georgetown,” Howard wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Marty embodies Georgetown’s value of ‘Hoyas for others’ and he inspires his students to pursue justice not only in his class, but in their lives.” 

Tankleff said his course, “Making an Exoneree,” combines criminal justice with storytelling and online advocacy to help advocate for wrongfully convicted citizens. 

“Our students learn about criminal justice, sociology, psychology, interpersonal relationships, time management, interviewing, traveling, and so much more. Our students face real world challenges that no other class offers and with those challenges comes the opportunity to have a direct impact on someone’s life, the possibility of freedom,” Tankleff wrote. 

The 15-student course incorporates numerous cases by using video documentaries and media campaigns to reinvestigate and bring light to possible injustices, according to Howard. The course also filmed a Hulu documentary in 2019 on the Christina Boyer case, which is scheduled to air by the end of 2022, Tankleff said. 

Boyer was wrongfully convicted for failing to seek proper medical attention for her daughter, which purportedly led to her death, despite Boyer having an alibi, hospital emergency room records and the medical examiner for consultation in the case. 

The pair also created the Robert Katzmann Fellowship, which funds a year-long teaching and research assistant position in their “Making an Exoneree” course, to further support students interested in investigating wrongful conviction cases. 

Nell Haney (COL ’22), the first Katzmann Fellow and a teaching assistant in the “Making an Exoneree” course, was a student in the 2021 course and worked on the wrongful conviction case of Raymond Allan Warren, who was sentenced to 18 years of prison on drug charges when he was only 16 years old. 

“Getting to work with Allan has brought so much meaning to my life, which was what motivated me to accept the Robert Katzmann Fellowship and continue my involvement as the MAE TA,” Haney wrote to The Hoya. “My main goal for this year is to support the current students in their endeavors such that they can create similarly impactful relationships.” 

Haney said Tankleff’s influence is one of the reasons why the course promotes Georgetown’s values of service and being men and women for others. 

“Marty has shown such a commitment to Georgetown, its students and the community at large, and I’m so glad that he is being recognized in this way. Marty is, in many ways, beyond words,” Haney wrote.  

This article was updated on March 25 to correct the date Tankleff was convicted and charged and to correct the age he was convicted.

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