Detroit Council Approves $7.5M Settlement for Wrongfully Imprisoned Teen

NSB has won a $7.5 million settlement on behalf of Davontae Sanford, who entered prison as a teenager and spent eight years there before he was freed.

As reported by The Detroit News, Davontae Sanford was just 15 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the fatal shootings of four people at a drug house on Runyon, two blocks from his home on Detroit’s east side in 2007. Two weeks after the teen went to prison, professional hit man Vincent Smothers confessed to 12 killings, including the September 17, 2007 homicides on Runyon – but police suppressed the information and fought attempts by innocence advocates to exonerate Mr. Sanford.

Mr. Sanford was released on June 8, 2016 and on July 19, 2016, the charges were dismissed. In September 2017, NSB lawyers filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Sanford’s behalf, seeking damages from the police officers involved and the city of Detroit.

The settlement came after NSB proved that lead defendants Michael Russell and James Tolbert had lied when they claimed Mr. Sanford had provided a detailed confession to the crime and drew an accurate portrayal of the crime scene.

The case is Sanford v. City of Detroit, No. l 7-cv-13062 (E.D. Mich.).  Sanford was represented by NSB Partners Nick Brustin, Emma Freudenberger and Amelia Green, NSB Johnnie L. Cochran Fellow Julian Clark with Paralegal support provided by Moises Soto-Brito. NSB represented Mr. Sanford with Goodman & Hurwitz, P.C.

Learn More

Explore The Detroit News’ interactive study of wrongful conviction, “Davontae Sanford’s Road to Freedom”

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