After interrogations by the Detroit Police, Sanford, who was 14 years old in September 2007, gave an inaccurate confession to a hit man-style quadruple homicide on Detroit's Runyon Street. He later pled guilty to four counts of second degree homicide on the advice of an attorney, who is now suspended from the practice of law. In April 2008, two weeks after Sanford's sentencing, a professional hit man, Vincent Smothers, confessed to the Runyon Street killings and eight additional murders.
The State Appellate Defender Office appealed the conviction on Davontae's behalf. Based on that appeal, in 2014 the Michigan Supreme Court remanded the case for hearings before Judge Sullivan. In April, 2015, the Innocence Clinics filed an extensive Motion to Set Aside the Judgment highlighting the detailed Smothers confession to the Runyon Street murders and significant inaccuracies in Davontae's 2007 confession. As a result, the Michigan State Police reinvestigated the murders. Dykema was thereafter brought in as lead counsel to handle the hearing on the Motion. On May 20, 2016, the Michigan State Police provided the report to the Wayne County Prosecutor's office. The Office subsequently contacted Dykema with an agreement to release Davontae Sanford and not re-charge him.
The legal team leading Davontae's release are Samuel Damren, Jonathan Feld, and Heidi Naasko of Dykema. This result was secured because of the excellent work and perseverance of co-counsel David Moran, Co-Founder of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, Megan Crane of the Northwestern Center for the Wrongful Convictions of Youth and Valerie Newman of the State Appellate Defender's Office.
"We are extremely grateful for the meticulous work of the Michigan State Police, which was instrumental in obtaining Davontae's release. And we thank Kym Worthy and the entire Wayne County Prosecutor's Office for taking decisive action to correct this injustice," said Dykema member Samuel Damren. "The outcome would also not have been possible without a team of stellar appellate defenders including tireless work and investigation by the Michigan Innocence Clinic, Northwestern Center on the Wrongful Convictions of Youth, and especially David Moran and Megan Crane. Valerie Newman of the State Appellate Defender's Office has been the continual driving force to ensure Davontae's release in all aspects of this case from the inception of his appeal."
"Dykema is exceptionally proud that it was able to play a part in Davontae's exoneration and release. We believe that lawyers have a duty to respond to calls for justice, and there was no louder call than what we saw in this case," added Dykema Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Peter Kellett.
Statement from the Sanford Family (note: the family will not be conducting interviews at this time): "Davontae's family, friends and supporters knew from the outset that he was innocent and wrongfully convicted. As the judge's order confirms, Davontae had nothing to do with these murders. We are grateful to those who have fought for many years on Davontae's behalf and thankful to soon have Davontae home with us."
To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/michigan-court-overturns-2008-murder-conviction-of-detroit-teenager-davontae-sanford-300281057.html