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Defendant Claims he was Subjected to Custodial Interrogation


The respondent of this case is the People of the State of New York. The appellant in the case is M.T. This case is being heard in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department. M.T. is appealing a decision that denied his motion to vacate two judgments from the same court that convicted him of murder in the second degree.

Case Facts

On the 7th of September, 1988, S.T. and A.T. were attacked fatally (murder) in their home located in Belle Terre, New York. When the police arrived at the scene of the crime, the defendant, who is the son of the victims and was 17 years old at the time, repeatedly told the police that his father’s business partner, J.S. committed the murders.

The defendant was taken to the Suffolk County Police Department in Yaphank. He was questioned extensively. During the questioning one of the detectives informed the defendant that his father was still alive and said that he had committed the crimes. The defendant asked if he could have blacked out and done it or if he could have been possessed. A second detective told him that he thought that’s what had happened. At this point the defendant confessed to the murders and then almost immediately denied doing it.

A New York Criminal Lawyer said during the trial the evidence of the prosecutor consisted mainly of the repudiated confession of the defendant. The defendant offered the theory that Jerard Steuerman committed the crimes and not the defendant. The defense offered evidence that Steuerman owed Mr. Tankleff a large amount of money and that a week after the murders he staged his own death, changed his appearance and fled to California.

The jury was in deliberation for seven days and reached a verdict of guilty. The defendant was then sentenced to two terms of 25 years to life.


A Queens Criminal Lawyer said the defendant appealed the judgment of conviction arguing that the police subjected him to custodial interrogation in violation of his Miranda rights and therefore his confession should be suppressed. The appeal was denied by a vote of 3 to 2.

In February of 1996, the defendant filed a writ of habeas corpus, which was denied.

Court Discussion and Decision

In the interest of justice, the court finds that the denial of the defendant’s motion to vacate the two judgments that were issued on the 23 of October, 1990 was made in error as there was new evidence in the case.

For the reasons listed above, we grant that the part of the defendant’s motion to vacate the judgment based on newly discovered evidence is granted. The judgments and sentences imposed from the judgments are vacated and the case will be remitted to the County Court of Suffolk County for a new trial to be held. In regard to the other issues brought forth by the defendant, the motions are dismissed as they now do not need to be considered.

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