The smile that says I’m free: Man released from prison 8 years after wrongful murder conviction

Free man: Davontae Sanford (pictured smiling as he leaves prison) was jailed for four murders at the age of 14 but was released on Wednesday after his convictions were overturned

A man who was wrongly jailed for four murders at the age of 14 has been released more than eight years later after a judge overturned his convictions.

Davontae Sanford, 23, beamed with joy as he finally walked out of a prison in Michigan a free man on Wednesday.

Sanford was charged with the murder of four men at a drug den in Detroit in 2007 and was jailed the next year after he admitted to second-degree murder as part of a plea deal.

The teenager was standing outside his house – near the crime scene – in his pajamas when he was arrested in September 2007.

Sanford was sentenced to 39 years in prison, but astonishingly just 15 days after he was jailed, a hitman confessed to the murders – as well as eight other killings.

It still took eight years of campaigning for Sanford to be freed.

He refused to speak to reporters as he left prison in Ionia, Michigan, today with his brother and a lawyer before climbing into a sedan and driving back to his family home in Detroit.

Sanford (pictured leaving prison, center, with his brother, left, and two lawyers) was charged with the murder of four men at a drug den in Detroit in 2007 and was jailed the next year

Waiting for him there was his mother, Taminko Sanford, who said: ‘I feel blessed.’

Sanford was 14, blind in one eye and barely able to read or write when he was charged with killing the four men at the drug den in his neighborhood in 2007.

At 15, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the middle of his trial and was sentenced to a minimum of 39 years in prison.

The case appeared closed and unremarkable until lawyers discovered that hitman Vincent Smothers had confessed to the murders, as well as a string of other killings.

The revelation prompted calls for Sanford to be freed, but prosecutors resisted at every turn until state police were asked last year to take a fresh look.

The agreement to throw out the convictions doesn’t mention Smothers, with prosecutor Kym Worthy saying it is a diagram of the murder scene drawn up by police that ‘seriously undermines’ the original case.

She is expected to speak at a press conference tomorrow, after years of arguing the case for Sanford to remain locked up.

David Moran, Sanford’s lawyer, praised prosecutors for realizing an ‘injustice had been done’.

Michigan offers no financial remedy to people wrongly convicted of a crime, but Sanford can sue police over civil rights violations.

Smothers, 35, is in prison for 52 years after pleading guilty in 2010 to eight killings, not including the murders Sanford was convicted of.

He said he was regularly hired by drug dealers but said he would never have paid someone like Sanford to help.

It is not clear whether Smothers will face trial for the four drug den murders.

Source: The DailyMail

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