Yesterday the folks at the Huffington Post released a gut-wrenching expose on the treatment of kids sentenced to adult prison in Michigan. The report, titled Cruel and All-Too-Usual, begins with a graphic video accompanied by the following warning.
Warning: The following video, obtained by The Huffington Post, shows the rough treatment of a minor by correctional officers and may be disturbing to some viewers. If you are in a public place, headphones are advisable.
The footage, which can be seen below, would be disturbing even if I didn’t know the young man being held down by half a dozen officers. But, according to a message I received earlier this evening, I do know the man. Or at least I know of him. He’s someone we’ve talked about here over the past several years, since he was arrested the age of 14 for the murder of four people in a Detroit drug house. His name is Davontae Sanford.
At least that’s what his mom, Taminko Sanford, just told me. He’s not identified in the video, and his face is blurred, but she says it’s Davontae in the video, being held down by the officers, and then softly singing to himself. And I have no reason not be believer her.
According to the documentation accompanying the footage, it was shot of a 16-year-old inmate with learning disabilities at the Thumb Correctional facility in 2009, so I suspect it is Davontae, who was arrested at 14 years old in 2007. This video, we’re told, came shortly after he threatened to hang himself.
Following, by way of background, is something that I wrote about Davontae’s case several years ago.
…Davontae, who read at a third-grade level at the time of his arrest, signed and initialed a typewritten confession given to him by a detective. No video of his questioning, which took place without the presence of his mother or legal council, exists. And, in his signed confession, Davontae claimed that he’d committed the murders with a different weapon than the one which was actually used by the killer. In spite of this, however, Davontae was convicted and sent to prison, where he’s been sentenced to serve from thirty-seven to ninety years. And, that’s not the worst of it. Just months after being sent to prison, an imprisoned hit man by the name of Vincent Smothers confessed to having committed the drug-related killings. Furthermore, he says Davontae had nothing to do with it… Everyone, it would seem, knows that this young man is innocent, and yet he remains in prison…
And I should add that Davontae is still in prison today.
[The above image was taken from the Huffington Post feature referenced above.]