Davontae Sanford, convicted of quadruple homicide now proven he did not commit, was released from prison.
The 23-year-old from Detroit spent nearly nine years in prison for the offense. After his release, he hugged his mother and told her “I love you.”
“It’s over. It’s over,” Pamela Sanford-Harris, Sanford’s grandmother, said.
In 2007, Sanford was convicted for killing four people in his neighborhood, as reported by Sanluisobispo.com. Sanford, who was blind in one eye and couldn’t read or write well, was 14 then. During the trial he pleaded guilty to second degree murder and, as a result, was sentenced to 39 years in prison.
The hit man, Vincent Smothers, came forward and admitted to the crime two weeks after Sanford was sent away to prison. However, the prosecutors – who believed the right culprit had been arrested – did not reopen the case.
In a statement, David Moran, director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, said, “The justice system took many years to acknowledge the complete breakdown that allowed for Davontae to sit in prison for nine years. Davontae can now return to his family and, for the first time in his adult life, live as a free man.”
In 2012, a judge rejected a motion for Sanford to repeal his plea, as reported by NBC News. Two years later, in 2014, the case was taken over by pro bono attorneys. In a 26-page letter, Smothers confessed to the crime and said Sanford wasn’t involved.
As reported by Detroit Free Press, Sanford said it “feels wonderful” being home. “I just want to try and put this behind me and move on with my life and move forward with my family … take one day at a time, one step at a time and just go from there,” he said.
Sanford’s attorney, Valerie Newman, said it is a “whirlwind of emotions.”
“He hasn’t been able to hug his brother for eight years, almost nine years he hasn’t been able to hug his brother,” Newman said.
The Michigan Law School’s National Registry of Exonerations shows that 149 people had their convictions overturned last year.
“I think he’s going to have a long road, but he’s gotten a lot of support while he’s been incarcerated,” Newman said, speaking about Sanford’s life after his release. “He has a very, very strong foundation, and a very, very strong family support that he has the tools to be successful.”
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