Davontae Sanford was just 14-years-old when police accused him of killing four people at a Detroit drug house, but even after convicted hitman Vincent “Vito” Smothers admitted that he committed the murders, the teen remains behind bars.
Smothers has taken measures to clear Sandford’s name in recent years, and now is taking on a new effort to have the teen freed on the charges.
In an affidavit this week, Vincent Smothers confessed in detail to the four killings. The statement was filed by Sanford’s legal team, which includes law professors from the University of Michigan and Northwestern University.
The case has already gained international attention. Davontae Sanford was 14 when police arrested him for four murders on Runyon Street in Detroit’s east side in 2007. Police questioned Sanford without an attorney or parent present, and after a long interrogation, he confessed.
He eventually pleaded guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence.
But even after Smothers confessed later that year, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan would not allow Sanford to withdraw his guilty plea and repeatedly denied defense motions to allow Smothers to testify. Attorneys appealed the case to the Michigan Supreme Court last year, but judged declined to intervene.
Smothers said it is time that Davontae Sanford is released.
“I have nothing to gain from testifying about my commission of the Runyon murders,” said Smothers, who is serving a 52-year sentence for killing eight people.
“I only want to tell the truth in order to prevent an innocent kid from serving time for crimes that I committed,” he said in the affidavit. “I hope to have the opportunity to testify in court to provide details and drawings of the crime scene that could only be known by the person who committed the crime: me.”
“He’s not guilty. He didn’t do it… I understand what prison life is like; it’s miserable. To be here and be innocent – I don’t know what it’s like. He’s a kid, and I hate for him to do the kind of time they’re giving him.”
There is still a chance that Davontae Sanford will have his case re-heard. Though the state Supreme Court did not hear the case, they ruled that Sanford’s attorneys made procedural mistakes that could open the door to a new trial. Attorney Robert Slameka did not challenge the teen’s confession or other evidence, and Sanford ended up pleading guilty.
[Image via Voice Of Detroit]