High court denies $27,000 in wrongful detention aid for Sanford

Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News

The Michigan Supreme Court has denied Davontae Sanford an additional $27,000 in wrongful detention aid, according to a ruling released Thursday.

Sanford's murder convictions in Wayne County were set aside because of police misconduct. Sanford was paid $408,000 for the more than eight years he spent in prison but also wanted money for 198 days spent in a detention center for teens as part of his detention prior to trial.

The court in a 4-3 vote along philosophical lines ruled he was not entitled to the additional $27,000 in compensation before his conviction "because his preconviction detention was not “wrongful under the statute."

In this June 9, 2016, file photo, Davontae Sanford stands with his mother, Taminko Sanford, and addresses the media during a news conference in Detroit, a day after being released from prison.

Republican-nominated Judges Brian Zahara, Stephen Markman, David Viviano and Elizabeth Clement voted to uphold an earlier Michigan Court of Claims decision denying Sanford the additional money. Democratic-nominated Justices Bridget McCormack, Richard Bernstein and Megan Cavanagh disagreed. 

"Pretrial detention of an innocent person, like post-trial detention of an innocent person, is unfair and unjust," McCormack wrote in their dissent. 

Sanford was 14 years old in 2007 when he was arrested for a quadruple homicide in a Detroit drug house. Sanford argued that police tricked him into confessing to the crime and that his defense attorney, who was later disbarred for unethical behavior, pressured him to plead guilty to second-degree murder because the lawyer said he knew the judge, who’d hand down a light sentence.

At age 15, Sanford was sentenced to 39 to 90 years in adult prison.

Sanford sought the funds under the state's Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act. 

Staff Writer George Hunter contributed