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davontae sanford

Davontae Sanford was wrongfully convicted of four murders at age 14. He was released from prison in 2016 spending nearly nine years behind bars.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Authorities say a young Detroit man who was released from prison last year after prosecutors agreed that his four murder convictions should be overturned has been shot in the leg.

Detroit police say Davontae Sanford was taken to the hospital Saturday night with a wound that isn't life-threatening. Investigators are piecing together details of the shooting in the east-side area where Sanford lives.

Davontae Sanford was wrongfully convicted of four murders at age 14. He was released from prison in 2016 spending nearly nine years behind bars.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Davontae Sanford is suing the city of Detroit, as well as former Detroit Police Commander James Tolbert and Sgt. Mike Russell, for wrongful imprisonment. 

Sanford spent nearly nine years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. At age 14, he was picked up by Detroit police in 2007 after four people were gunned down in a home in his neighborhood. Police interrogated him off and on for 2 days without a parent or attorneys present.

Kym Worthy (file photo).
waynecounty.com

Community leaders in Detroit this week are calling on Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to change the way her office prosecutes cases. They she has been too harsh on juvenile offenders and has allowed exonerated prisoners to stay behind bars.

Public Act 343 makes Michigan the 32nd state to provide exonorees with compensation for time served.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Just try to imagine how it would feel to be accused of a crime. Wrongfully accused. You didn't do it. But you're convicted and sent to prison.

Then, miraculously, you get another shot and your innocence is proven.

You're released with absolutely no compensation, and no help re-entering the world outside of those prison walls.

That was the case in Michigan until just last week when Public Act 343 took effect. With that, Michigan became the 32nd state to provide exonorees with compensation for time served.

More than 60 people have been exonerated in Michigan since 1989, according to the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan.
Dave Nakayama/Flickr

There’s a question Dave Moran asks whenever he gives talks about his work at the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic.

"If the state said, ‘We’re going to lock you up for something you didn’t do. We’re going to frame you, or just be sloppy with our job … And then after one year, we’ll announce that we made a mistake and we’ll set you free.’ How much would it take for you to agree to that?

Davontae Sanford was wrongfully convicted of four murders at age 14. He was released from prison in 2016 spending nearly nine years behind bars.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Tuesday was another surreal day in the Davontae Sanford case. 

First came the news that Judge Brian Sullivan was finally dismissing the murder charges against Sanford, more than a month after letting him out of prison.

(Quick explainer: Judge Sullivan already vacated the murder convictions against Sanford, and ordered him released from prison, which he was last month. But ever since, Sanford’s been stuck in limbo, still out on bond and at risk of being thrown back in jail until the charges were dismissed.)

Finally a fully free man

Davontae Sanford was wrongfully convicted of four murders at age 14. He was released from prison in 2016 spending nearly nine years behind bars.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Davontae Sanford has been home for a little over a month now.

One month -- after nearly nine years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Now, Sanford says he just wants to build a normal life. But he’s still got legal restrictions on his freedom.

After exoneration, hopes for normalcy

The waiter at this chain restaurant in downtown Detroit just came up to Davontae Sanford and asked, sorry, are you who I think you are?

This is, apparently, happening to Sanford a lot.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

This has been a hard week for Davontae Sanford.

Sanford, you may remember, spent nearly nine years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

But this week, he learned that one of the police officers who allegedly lied about evidence in his case, will not be charged. 

And for Sanford, this feels like just one more injustice.

The night of the murders: a police interrogation and a crime scene sketch

Here’s how Davontae Sanford says he remembers the night of the murders on Runyon Street in Detroit.

Davontae Sanford was wrongfully convicted of four murders at age 14. He was released from prison in 2016 spending nearly nine years behind bars.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The case goes back to a grisly quadruple homicide in Detroit in 2007.

Police interrogated 14-year-old Davontae Sanford, who says he was coerced into giving a false confession.

Former Detroit police commander James Tolbert was one of the cops who questioned Sanford. He testified in court that Sanford was able to draw a crime scene sketch for police of where the murders took place.

But later, Tolbert admitted to police that he actually drew most of the sketch.

Still, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced late Tuesday there's insufficient evidence to charge Tolbert with perjury. Her office says even if Tolbert changed his statements about evidence, it’s really hard to actually prove perjury, because you have to prove that somebody intentionally lied under oath.

After nearly nine years of wrongful imprisonment, Davontae Sanford is reunited with his mom, Taminko Sanford, this summer
Val Newman

After nearly nine years of being wrongfully imprisoned for murder, Davontae Sanford is free.

During his time in prison, which began when he was 14 years old, he missed out on many things. Sanford's  trying to get back to a normal life with  many people trying to help him with that difficult transition. A month after being released, he took the first step toward that goal by landing a job set up through someone who saw his case reported on a local TV station.

James Tolbert
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Former high-ranking Detroit police officer James Tolbert won’t face perjury charges over allegations that he lied about evidence in the Davontae Sanford case.

Sanford was released this summer, after nearly nine years of wrongful imprisonment. He was convicted of a grisly 2007 homicide officials now say he didn’t commit.

Michigan AG Bill Schuette
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

With just 14 days left to charge former Detroit Police Commander James Tolbert for perjury, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says his office is “watching the case, and we’ll see what decision [Wayne County Prosecutor] Kym [Worthy] makes.”

Schuette declined to say whether he’d step in to press charges against Tolbert if Worthy doesn’t.

“I’m not going to speculate on what I might do,” Schuette said Tuesday. “The point is, we’re watching the case.”

Police
J J / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Leroy Payne has apparently gotten out of Dodge.

The man State Police have identified as a suspect in a quadruple murder for which Davontae Sanford wrongfully spent eight years in prison – has “left town,” according to his lawyer.

“I believe he was moving,” says Mark Magidson, Payne’s attorney, possibly somewhere “down south.”

A Michigan State Police file photo.
Michigan State Police

Three possible suspects have emerged from a year-long Michigan State Police investigation into a quadruple homicide in 2007.

That investigation helped clear Davontae Sanford, who walked out of prison earlier this month after eight years of wrongful incarceration.

Two of the State Police suspects are currently behind bars for other crimes, but the third, Leroy Payne, is believed to be a free man.

The State Police investigation resulted in warrant requests for three homicide suspects. But the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office is asking for “further investigation.”

James Tolbert
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A Michigan State Police investigation into a nine-year-old murder case suggests Detroit police lied about evidence, and failed to follow up on big breaks in the case that might have freed a wrongfully imprisoned young man.

That man, Davontae Sanford, was finally released from prison last week, after serving eight years – largely because of what the Michigan State Police investigation found.

A brutal crime, a young teen, and a professional hit man

Davontae Sanford with family and supporters after his release.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Davontae Sanford's family is considering a civil lawsuit, sources close to the family tell us, after he was wrongfully imprisoned for eight years.

Sanford was arrested at age 14 for a quadruple homicide on Runyon Street in 2007. A recent Michigan State Police investigation shows Sanford is likely innocent, but was allowed to sit in prison for years -- well after convicted hit man Vincent Smothers confessed to the Runyon Street murders.

Davontae Sanford with family and supporters after his release.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A young Detroit man who spent nine years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit says he’s ready to make a new life for himself.

Davontae Sanford was just 14 when he confessed to four murders.

But a hit man confessed to the same crimes just a year later. Advocates for the wrongfully incarcerated have fought to free him ever since.

This week, following a Michigan State Police re-investigation of the case, a judge vacated Sanford’s convictions and freed him.

Kym Worthy (file photo).
waynecounty.com

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy defended her office’s handling of the Davontae Sanford case today.

Sanford confessed to four Detroit murders in 2007, when he was just 14 years old.

But a judge overturned Sanford’s convictions and freed him this week.

Worthy says that became possible only after a recent Michigan State Police investigation she requested found a Detroit police officer lied about key aspects of Sanford’s confession.

Questions about Sanford’s guilt arose as early as 2008, when a hit man named Vincent Smothers confessed to the same crimes.

Relatives of Devontae Sanford advocate for his release in 2015.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Davontae Sanford is 23 years old, but he hasn't known freedom since age 14. For the last nine years, Sanford has served time in prison for four murders he didn't commit.

Shortly into Sanford's prison sentence, a hit man who had been arrested for other killings in Detroit had insisted Sanford couldn't possibly have committed the crimes. Vincent Smothers' reasoning was simple -- he was the one who carried out the murders.

Despite Smothers' claims, it took eight years for the court system to finally declare Sanford innocent.

Davontae Sanford
Michigan Department of Corrections

He was just 14 years old when he confessed to and was convicted of a quadruple murder.

But today, 23-year-old Davontae Sanford walks out of Ionia State Prison a free man.

His conviction was vacated Tuesday by Wayne County Circuit Judge Brian Sullivan, who agreed with arguments that Sanford's case had all the hallmarks of a false confession.

David Moran is with the Michigan Innocence Clinic and was co-counsel on this case.

Shayan Sanyal / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Legislation up for a vote in the state Senate tomorrow would compensate felons who are exonerated for the time they were wrongfully imprisoned. It would allow $50,000 for every year of wrongful incarceration. It would also offer aftercare services to freed inmates.    

State Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, says Michigan is one just a handful of states that does not compensate people for wrongful imprisonment. He says it offers a measure of justice.

James Tolbert
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s fired police chief may face criminal charges for his involvement in the wrongful conviction of a Detroit teen nine years ago.

James Tolbert was Detroit’s Deputy Police Chief in 2007. That’s when 14-year-old Davontae Sanford supposedly confessed to murdering four people.

Sanford was convicted in 2008. But serious questions about the case arose soon after, when a confessed hit man named Vincent Smothers said he had committed the crimes -- and had never heard of Sanford.

Davontae Sanford
Michigan Department of Corrections

After spending eight years in prison, a Detroit man convicted of murdering four people has been cleared and ordered released.

Davontae Sanford confessed to the murders in 2007, when he was just 14.

But soon after Sanford’s conviction, a hit man confessed to the same crimes, and insisted Sanford was not involved.

Now, following a Michigan State Police re-investigation of the case, Wayne County Judge Brian Sullivan has vacated Sanford’s convictions, and ordered him released immediately. Prosecutor Kym Worthy had agreed to dismiss Sanford’s case Tuesday morning.