DETROIT (AP) — A judge on Tuesday threw out the murder convictions of a young Detroit man who pleaded guilty to killing four people when he was 14, a remarkable turnaround in a case that has been in doubt for years after a professional hit man stepped forward and took responsibility for the slayings at a drug den.
Judge Brian Sullivan acted at the request of the Wayne County prosecutor’s office and lawyers for Davontae Sanford. Prosecutor Kym Worthy had long resisted efforts to revisit the convictions until law schools at the University of Michigan and Northwestern University and other pro bono lawyers got involved in 2015.
Sanford, now 23, will be released Wednesday from a prison in western Michigan. In a separate step, Worthy will ask the judge to drop all charges due to the findings of state police in an investigation that was requested last year by the prosecutor’s office.
State police learned that Detroit police drew a diagram of the scene of the 2007 killings — not Sanford as had been previously reported by investigators. The conflict “seriously undermines” his confession and subsequent guilty plea, prosecutors said.
“No one can give Davontae Sanford and his family back the nine years he has spent in jail for a crime he did not commit, but the court’s decision corrects a grave injustice,” said Heidi Naasko, an attorney for Sanford.