On September 17, 2007, after four people were murdered in a known drug house in Detroit, fourteen-year-old Davontae Sanford, a developmentally delayed child who was blind in one eye, approached the police outside his apartment and asked them what was going on. The police responded that Davontae “knew what was going on”, and even though the boy was in his pajamas, took him into custody. There he…
On September 17, 2007, after four people were murdered in a known drug house in Detroit, fourteen-year-old Davontae Sanford, a developmentally delayed child who was blind in one eye, approached the police outside his apartment and asked them what was going on. The police responded that Davontae “knew what was going on”, and even though the boy was in his pajamas, took him into custody. There he was questioned and interrogated without a parent or attorney present, nor were these interrogations recorded, as the police department was capable of doing.
After intense interrogations over the next few days, which included showing the young boy crime scene photographs and taking him to the actual crime scene, the officers typed out a “confession” for Davontae to sign. Only able to read at a 2nd to 3rd grade level and desperate to go home, Davontae signed what was put in front of him, not understanding the long-term implications of his actions. He was scared and wanted to return to his family.
It was later that the Police Officers realized that what was written in the “confession” did not mesh with the true facts of the case. Davontae, in his desperation to please the officers and go home made up many aspects of the confession, from the number of accomplices he had to the weapon that he used. None of these could be corroborated. In fact, these “facts” were easily proven false.
However, the police and the Prosecutors’ Office forged ahead, and young Davontae and his mother, innocent to the world of the criminal justice system were strongly encouraged to plead guilty to the crime. The lawyer Davontae had was Robert Slameka who had accumulated a frightening record: He had been admonished 11 times, reprimanded four times and one of his client’s convictions was overturned because of Slameka’s poor performance.
After Davontae pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 37 – 90 years in prison, a professional hitman named Vincent Smothers was arrested for another murder. While he was being interrogated (and it was being recorded), he admitted to committing the murders on Runyon Street. Once he was sentenced and incarcerated he saw Davontae in the very same prison as he was in. He told his lawyer that he would formally confess to the murders on Runyon Street.
Ms. Worthy, you know that Davontae Sanford’s confession is false. It has too many inconsistencies and it makes no sense. However, Vincent Smothers’ confession has all the details that you need in a confession. The AK-47 that Smothers’ confessed to using matched the ballistics at both the Runyon Street scene and another murder that he committed. In addition, Smothers identified an accomplice in the Runyon Street killings who used a 45 pistol, which when found, also clearly matched some of the casings and bullets at the crime scene.
Sadly, Davontae has been wrongfully incarcerated for the past six years. He is not thriving in this prison setting and has missed out on his childhood. Ms. Worthy, it is time you recognized the mistake that was made and do what needs to be done to remedy it so that this young man will not lose more of his precious life.