RIVERHEAD, NY: When Martin Tankleff got 50 years to life in 1990 for murdering his parents, the trial was a media spectacle that aired on Court TV.
When a judge this month ordered that Tankleff should get a hearing because of new evidence that has surfaced, the press attention was subdued by comparison, but no less important - the result of a several-month PR effort led by New York-based agency Soury Communications.
"We firmly believed we needed to raise the profile of this case," said Lonnie Soury, the firm's founder. "We couldn't leave it to the system to exonerate Marty. We needed to get national attention for the case or else the powers that be would have swept it under a rug."
Working on a pro bono basis, Soury got the new evidence, which was dug up by a former New York homicide detective working as a private investigator, covered in The New York Times, Newsday, 48 Hours, and dozens of other news outlets. In addition, the firm put up a website dedicated to the case and Soury spread the word to political and legal contacts.
Tankleff's conviction was based on a confession he has disavowed. The new evidence includes a statement from a man who says that the night of the crime, he drove a getaway car with the two actual murderers, who were connected with an estranged business partner of Martin's father.
Ever since the killings, Martin has maintained his innocence, and his family has supported his claims. "It's rare that injustice is thrown in your lap like that," said Soury, whose firm specializes in issues-oriented PR.
The hearing is set for July 19.