Archive for ‘Innocence Project’

January 7, 2008

This Is A Job For A Super Do-Gooder…Oprah, Dr. Phil, Ellen, Ty Pennington, Jakes, any Volunteers?

by MullOverThis

One change that prisoners are able to keep up with is television.  Television programming indicates that reality and talk shows are the order of the day.  We have so many that are based upon doing good that I would like to suppose an opportunity for two hometowns in America:  Rally around the do-gooder that will take the helm and let the Chambers of Commerce, talk show hosts, local churches (synagogues or worship centers), charities, department stores and corporations know that Martin Tankleff and Charles Allen Chapman are back in town.  These two men spent 17 and 27 years, respectively, in jail for crimes they did not commit.  Instead of having to live with the “I wonder if he really did it” aura that will plague the decadent, these two men ought to receive a red carpet welcome back into their communities with car keys, educational costs, counseling, health care and renovated homes in tow.  No one or nothing can recompense these gentlemen for years of dreams, desires, and opportunities gone awry  at the hands of a judicial system that is supposed to protect them and does just that for most.   We ought to show them the same love that we often show families with multiple births, whose homes  burn down, or fall upon hard times.  Their faith in our country and the general goodwill of its people can be super-sized– along with all the other men and women who have been wrongfully convicted–with a genuine homecoming reception.  Here’s a caveat for you.  The same faulty gaps in the walls of our justice system that protect us today could be a foray that destroys everything we have worked to build as part of the American dream at the end of today.

A nightmare would best describe what Martin Tankleff experienced.  In 1988 at the tender age of 17, Martin found his parents,  Seymour and Arlene Tankleff, brutally slain in their Long Island, New York home.  Two years later, Tankleff received a 50 years to life sentence for murdering his parents based upon a confession that he was tricked into giving, and recanted almost immediately.  The questionable interrogation tactics got the lead detectives a closed file and inflicted tragedy upon tragedy.  Tankleff never stopped his relentless pursuit to be freed.  According to a NY Times report, “Mr. Tankleff’s lawyers were quick to give their client credit for forging his own path toward freedom, describing him as a tenacious correspondent who wrote thousands of letters to lawyers, judges and investigators and appealed widely for help from friends and acquaintances.” A number of legal professionals responded to Tankleff’s case, some of who volunteered for over ten years to see Tankleff experience this time in his life.    Seventeen years later, he has been released as per an  appellate court decision ordering a new trial based upon “new” evidence.   The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office has announced they will not pursue new murder charges against Tankleff.  One of the first things Martin Tankleff did was visit the grave-site of his parents on New Years Day. 

Charles Allen Chapman has a different but equally daunting story.   In 1981, a Dallas County, Texas Court sent Mr. Chapman up the river for 99 years for  aggravated rape.  Mr. Chapman, a 20 year old  African American man parolee for burglary at the time, was convicted largely because the victim identified him as the perpetrator from a line-up.  Mr. Chapman and the victim were neighbors on the same block for almost 14 years and he had an alibi at work during the time of the attack.  But the outcome for him was not surprising at all: Raped White woman points finger at Black man, whatever it takes, that Black man goes to jail.  Chapman has always maintained his innocence, and bidded for DNA testing of the semen samples over the years.  His first two test results were “inconclusive”.  With DNA testing technological advances, the third and most recent special test proved that Chapman could not have raped his neighbor who identified him 27 years ago.  By the way, Mr. Chapman had been up for parole a few times and refused to admit that he was a rapist and denied parole each time. He happens to be a Texan, from the good ole state that has released the most wrongfully convicted offenders with the advent of DNA testing. Mr. Chapman credits his faith with sustaining him through his 27 year trial.

These are just two men who have another chance and shouldn’t have lost the first one.  Let the acme of their stories be that they made the best of life because although they were imprisoned, they were never in prison where it mattered–in their minds.  We can help these men by supporting them and seriously listening to the pleas of many others like them who are still incarcerated.  The Innocence Project is a great organization that works to wake these victims up and pronounce to them that the nightmare is over. Let’s welcome them back and support the Innocence Project and other efforts to hear the cries of the wrongfully imprisoned.

For more info and to make donations to the Innocence Project:

More on Tankleff’s story:

More on Chapman’s Story: