Davontae was a mentally challenged 14-year old who heard shots in his neighborhood. Upon investigating Davontae found four people slain in a house. Having checked things out, he thought he could be of some help to the police. After three days with the police, playing video games, hanging out, and with no parental authority or legal representation, Davontae “confessed” to the murders himself. The videoed “confession” was more like a teacher going over an essay with a student with the teacher well in charge. 7 months afterward the police arrested a professional hitman, Vincent Smothers. They took seriously all of his confessions, but chose to ignore the confession of murders for which Davontae had been convicted, even though he led police to the location of the murder weapon.
WHERE WE ARE
This case highlights the lack of protections to youth or mentally challenged individuals who are easily
manipulated by authority figures. It also shows the absurdity of the legal process. The “confession”
of such an individual should never have been allowed. Upon appeal, judge would not allow expert
testimony on wrongful confessions, would not allow the real assassin to testify, and the Michigan
Supreme Court determined that actual innocence is not a basis for withdrawing a guilty plea.
Pressure led the prosecutor to request that the State Police reinvestigate. Their conclusion was that
the professional hitman was responsible and not Davontae. The prosecutor and the Michigan
Innocence Clinic presented a motion to the judge to vacate the conviction.
Despite the prosecutor Kym Worthy opposing that Sanford would receive any compensation, based
on Michigan’s new Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act, in Dec. 2017, Davontae was awarded
$408,000 in compensation from the state of Michigan.