Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Exonoree Awarded Georgetown Visiting Professorship

Georgetown University recognized exoneree and attorney Martin “Marty” Tankleff with the Peter P. Mullen Distinguished Visiting Professorship in honor of his contributions to the university and the field of law as a leading voice for wrongfully convicted people. 

In 1990, Tankleff was wrongfully convicted for the murder of his parents, who were killed in 1988 when Tankleff was 17. Tankleff was found gulity on two counts of murder and sentenced to 50 years to life after he was corerced into an unsigned confession. 

After being exonerated and released from prison in 2007, Tankleff dedicated his life to criminal justice reform. He was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2020, after which he served as a defense attorney and was admitted to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Tankleff co-teaches the “Making an Exoneree” course, which offers 15 undergraduate students the opportunity to learn about cases of wrongfully convicted individuals through video documentaries and media campaigns.

GU Prisons and Justice Initiative | Georgetown University honored professor and exoneree Martin Tankleff with the Peter P. Mullen Distinguished Visiting Professorship for his work on criminal justice reform.

The Georgetown Department of Government and the Georgetown Prisons and Justice Initiative, which offers educational programs for incarcerated people, hosted an event in honor of Tankleff’s achievement on March 28, where speakers had the opportunity to highlight Tankleff’s distinguished work. 

The Peter P. Mullen Distinguished Visiting Professorship was established in 1998 in honor of the late Peter Mullen (C ’48), a Georgetown graduate and board chair. The professorship recognizes an accomplished attorney with significant contributions to the university and the field of law. 

Tankleff said his motivation throughout all of his involvements is to improve the state of criminal justice in the United States.

“Since December 27, 2007, the day I was freed, after 6,338 days in prison, I have made a commitment to speak to legislative bodies, legal groups, police departments, even the former Suffolk County Police commission, the police department that put me in prison, high schools, colleges and universities, all in an effort to make a difference in this world,” Tankleff said at the event. 

Tankleff has testified against interrogation room deception, helping to pass bills banning the practice in Oregon, Illinois and Utah

Tankleff is a role model for students in Georgetown’s “Making an Exoneree” course, according to co-professor of the class, Marc Howard. Howard is also Tankleff’s childhood friend, and helped fight for his release. 

“I just want to be clear, none of it would be possible without Marty,” Howard said at the event. “He is the cornerstone of this program, and every time our students look up at him, they see the very thing that we are trying to achieve, which is getting an innocent person out of prison, and that motivates them just the same way that it motivated me.”

Tankleff embodies the values of the Mullen Professorship, according to Elaine Mullen, the daughter of the award’s namesake.

“My father had the belief that our legal system formed a basis for freedom in our society, and that everyone has equal rights and is entitled to justice under law,” Mullen said at the event. “Because of that, my father’s ideals match up perfectly with Marty’s dedication to social justice.”

Tankleff’s work will positively impact generations to come, according to Jason Flom, a music industry executive and an advocate for wrongfully convicted individuals. 

“The ripple effect shall be known and felt by countless people, some of whom won’t ever even know his name, but they will benefit from his incredible spirit,” Flom said at the event. “I have benefitted from knowing him. So Marty, I said before that my dad was my hero, and now I have another hero. You are a hero to me and to so many others.”

Tankleff said his own wrongful conviction and years spent incarcerated have driven his career in law and advocacy work. 

“Every young boy, girl, child that is going to be protected because of the legislation that I have been instrumental in getting passed, will be protected because there should never be any more Marty Tankleffs,” Tankleff said. “There should never be any child that should go through what I went through.” 

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