Actor James Gandolfini helped a wrongly convicted felon win a legal appeal in 2007 after befriending the alleged murderer and vowing to help him fight for his freedom.

Marty Tankleff was sentenced to life behind bars in 1990 after he was found guilty of killing his parents in New York, but he vehemently denied the claims and waged a legal battle to overturn the verdict, eventually walking free from prison in 2007 after the charges were dismissed.

Now Tankleff reveals he has The Sopranos star to thank for drawing public attention to the case, revealing the late actor drove to Great Meadow Correctional Facility to meet with the then-36 year old after hearing about his plight and he took a front row seat during his court hearing in Brooklyn in 2007.

Going public with the story following the sudden death of his pal, who passed away in Italy on Wednesday (19Jun13), he tells the New York Daily News, "Jim was loyal - it wasn't like he did it for the publicity... He was a genuine person you could sit down and eat dinner with. He got involved with my situation where others were reluctant."

After Tankleff was released, the actor gave him a custom-made Italian suit as a gift, and the 41 year old admits he will cherish it forever.

He adds, "There were shoes, and a shirt, and a tie. He wanted to make sure that I felt good... Every time I wear the suit he bought me, I take pride in it."