Editor’s Note: Free Davontae Sanford

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

No one in Wayne County’s legal system can even pretend at this point that Davontae Sanford committed the four murders he supposedly confessed to when he was 14-years-old.

The real murderer has admitted he was hired to carry out the drug hit, and Sanford, now 22, played no role.

Why Sanford, then an illiterate and partially blind teen, confessed is anyone’s guess. That he was so eagerly believed by cops and prosecutors and has been kept behind bars for so long despite the compelling evidence of his innocence speaks to a prosecutorial culture that leaves no room for admitting a mistake was made.

So at great expense to taxpayers, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy continues to fight to keep Sanford locked up.

Meanwhile, confessed hitman Vincent Smothers says he committed the 2007 murders in a drug house on Runyon Street in Detroit, and even told cops where to find the .45 caliber pistol used in the slayings. Smothers is serving time for other homicides.

Attorneys for the University of Michigan’s Innocence clinic and a similar project at Northwestern University were in court this week with a mountain of evidence that Sanford was wrongfully convicted.

Worthy should give it up. Prosecutors and police got it wrong. They should have seen Sanford from the beginning for what he was — a mentally challenged, troubled teen looking for attention.

Instead they saw an easy route to close a case.

And now they’re desperately trying to cover up their malpractice. A lawyer for Sanford contends part of Smother’s plea deal on the other homicides was a requirement that he stay silent about the evidence that would have exonerated Sanford.

Davontae Sanford has spent eight years locked up for murders he did not commit. He should not spend another day in prison.