May 23, 2016
The Innocence Project has taken up the case of Davontae Sanford, who was 14 in 2008 when he was wrongfully tried, convicted and sentenced for four murders in Detroit that he never committed.
Innocent people going to jail is not unusual in the U.S. so-called justice system. But this particular case is so egregious.
First, Sanford’s confession was coerced, done without a parent or lawyer present. It was not videotaped. His first confession, in which he gave the totally wrong information on the type of guns used and the number shooters involved, doesn’t match his second confession.
His second confession is videotaped clearly showing a police sergeant asking yes or no questions – spoon-feeding Sanford the right answers. And everyone on down the line accepted this, including his own lawyer.
Sanford’s lawyer, Robert Slameka, has been censured 17 times by the state Attorney Discipline Board for improperly representing clients. “Improper representation” is a gross understatement in this case. This lawyer is the one who tricked Sanford into pleading guilty to second-degree-murder. He claimed that the prosecution had an air-tight case and if he plead guilty he would one day get out of prison. On top of that, Slameka waived opening arguments and NEVER cross-examined the detective who questioned Sanford.
Two days after Sanford was imprisoned, Vincent Smothers, a hired hit man, confessed to the four murders along with eight other murders. He told police he was hired by drug dealers to kill one of the victims. The other three were collateral damage. Even though he gave the right answers, in detail and without prompting – two days after Sanford went to prison – the cops and prosecutor’s office ignored it – as they ignored the fact that the gun was traced to him.
“I cannot emphasize strongly enough that Davontae Sanford was not involved in the Sept. 17 murders on Runyon Street in any way,” Smothers wrote in an affidavit filed in Wayne Circuit Court last year.
The prosecutors and police would have us believe a 14-year-old, with learning disabilities and no criminal record, alone gunned down five adults working in a dope house, killing four of them – and never suffered a wound himself!
The University of Michigan Innocence Clinic and the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University School of Law have now produced evidence which supports the hit man’s story and proves that Sanford did not commit the crime. Prosecutor Kym Worthy was forced to ask the state police to investigate.
They have produced a report which would exonerate Sanford – and it also calls for criminal charges against one of the cops involved.
So Sanford may get out of prison. It’s obvious that for the cops and prosecutors, Sanford’s life has no value. It did not matter to them that they were throwing away a human being.
The Innocence Project may have salvaged Sanford – eight years of imprisonment too late – but how many other Sanfords are there?