A Detroit teen was finally released from prison for a 2007 quadruple killing that he did not commit.
Davontae Sanford was only 14 when he was convicted of committing the murders after police found him in his pajamas near the crime scene, NBC News reports. Sanford lived near where the murders occurred and had been standing outside when police were canvassing for witnesses.
Sanford was sentenced to 37-90 years in prison.
Hitman Vincent Smothers admitted to the murders only two weeks after Sanford was sent to prison according to The Detroit News, even telling police where the murder weapon was hidden. Even after Smothers’ confession, prosecutors insisted they’d arrested the right person.
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An investigation determined that Smothers and Ernest Davis were responsible for the crime.
Attorneys with the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth and the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law assisted in Sanford’s fight for freedom.
“The justice system took many years to acknowledge the complete breakdown that allowed for Davontae to sit in prison for nine years,” David Moran, director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, said. “Davontae can now return to his family and, for the first time in his adult life, live as a free man.”
Family lawyer Valerie Newman recounted how her client suffered in prison.
“He’s suffered so much. He went into jail when he was 14; prison when he was 15 years old. He grew up in prison. So to think that now he’s coming out as a 23-year-old man, it’s very overwhelming in a lot of ways.”
Sanford also attempted suicide in 2009 and was accused of assaulting guards who thwarted the teen’s attempt to take his own life.
Sanford said it felt “wonderful” to be out of prison.
“It feels wonderful, you know,” he said. “I want to try to put this behind me and move on with my life. And move forward with my family, you know. Take one day at a time, one step at a time and just go from there.”