News 04.15.15

In Davontae Sanford Case, Evidence of Innocence is Repeatedly Ignored

An article published Tuesday by the

Marshall Project

takes a detailed look at the case of Davontae Sanford who at just 14 years old was convicted of a 2007 quadruple murder in Michigan. According to the

Marshall Project,

Sanford’s lawyers stood before a judge yesterday evening to ask for a new trial for Sanford—the latest development in his case after multiple appeals for a new trial were previously denied.


The Marshall Project

writes that Sanford was taken to the police station on September 17, 2007 after four people were murdered on Runyon Street in his Detroit neighborhood. Sanford, a youth with a developmental disability, was questioned by police twice without the presence of his parents or an attorney. He eventually offered up two statements; an initial statement in which he denied involvement but suggested he may have known who committed the crime, and a later statement in which he identified details of the crime and implicated himself as one of the shooters. According to the

Marshall Project,

once Sanford was charged with murder, “he told a psychologist that he had made it all up because the police had told him he could go home if he would ‘just [tell] them something.’”

To make matters worse, at trial Sanford was represented by Robert Slameka, an attorney with a long record of incompetence who was later suspended from practicing law in Michigan, writes the

Marshall Project.

Slameka failed to raise questions about Sanford’s interrogation and confessions even though Sanford’s age and disability should have been enough to cast doubt upon the validity of his statements. Sanford was convicted of the murders and sentenced to four concurrent terms of 37 years to 90 years in prison.

Two weeks after Sanford’s conviction, writes the

Marshall Project,

27-year-old Vincent Smothers was arrested and confessed to the murder he was brought in for as well as 11 other murders, one of which was the Runyon Street incident. In Smothers’ confession, he offered up details about the weapons used and even told police where to find one of the murder weapons that had been hidden. According to the

Marshall Project,

although Smothers denied Sanford’s involvement in the murders, prosecutors offered him a deal of 50 years to100 years for all of the murders if he promised not to testify in Sanford’s defense.

Sanford’s appeals have been consistently denied, but today his lawyers filed a motion for a new trial. It remains to be seen whether or not the motion is granted, but as the

Marshall Project

writes, “[I]t has taken seven years just to get to this stage of this case, and there will likely be many more years of litigation to come before this excruciating process is over.”  

Read the full story here.

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