Editorial: Kym Worthy must free man she wrongly jailed

The Detroit News

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy should be standing at the courthouse door to apologize to Davontae Sanford when he walks in to resume his request for a new trial for a murder that by now Worthy and everyone else must know he didn’t commit.

Standing next to her should be Detroit Police Chief James Craig to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the police department for its role in framing Sanford in the 2007 slayings.

And Robert Slameka, the sleazy lawyer who provided the barest of representation to Sanford, ought to be carted off to take his former client’s place in the cell.

The wrong done to Davontae Sanford should make anyone who believes in justice furious.

Sanford was charged with killing two men in a drug house on the city’s northeast side, and pleaded guilty during his 2008 trial. He was 14 at the time and mentally slow.

He says now that his lawyer pressured him to enter the plea. Slameka, a public defender whose law license is currently under suspension, has been disciplined repeatedly for shoddy and unsavory practices. He should never be permitted to try another case.

Almost as soon as Sanford went to prison, another man, Vincent Smothers, confessed to the killings and several others. Mounds of evidence corroborated Smothers’ confession.

Innocence advocates have been urging a retrial for Sanford for years. In spring of 2015, the Michigan State Police launched an investigation into the case.

Their report, just sent to Worthy’s office and detailed in a Detroit News story last Saturday, reportedly recommends murder charges against Smothers and another man, and clears Sanford.

It also is said to implicate a high-ranking police official who testified in the case for perjury.

Worthy has not indicated whether she will drop the charges against Sanford. She has not yet released the state police report.

Sanford should not spend another night behind bars. He didn’t do the crime for which he was convicted.

Rather, he was victimized by a legal system in Wayne County that values expediency over justice, and often tolerates — encourages —the inadequate representation of indigent defendants in the name of moving cases through quickly and cleanly.

In court filings, Wayne County prosecutors contend Smothers’ confession does not necessarily acquit Sanford.

This is either stubbornness or petty vindictiveness at work. They could not be this incompetent.

Smothers has been willing for years to testify to Sanford’s innocence. Even a confessed hit man has more honor than the prosecutors who would rather keep the wrong man behind bars than admit they were in error.

We saw this play out similarly on the other side of the state earlier this month, when an appeals court finally granted a new trial to a Calhoun County woman wrongly convicted of sexually abusing her son. Again despite overwhelming evidence of her innocence and her son’s recanting of his accusation, it took a Herculean effort to get her freed.

The object should always be justice, not simply locking someone up for every crime committed and calling it all good.

Kym Worthy should stop stalling and set Davontae Sanford free.