Making the front page of Reddit with my post on Davontae Sanford

My website got 27,977 unique readers yesterday, after something that I’d written a while ago about Davontae Sandford enjoyed a short stint on the front page of Reddit… Davontae, as you’ll recall, is the young, learning-disabled teenager serving time in prison for the murder of four people in Detroit, even though almost everyone with any knowledge of case is convinced that he’s innocent, and that his statement to police was coerced. One of the more vocal proponents of this theory, by the way, is convicted hitman Vincent Smothers, who has made it clear to authorities on several occasions that it was him, and not Davontae, who executed the inhabitants of the Runyon Street drug house. In spite of the overwhelming evidence, however, Davontae continues to sit in prison. [I’d encourage those of you unfamiliar with the specifics of the case to follow the previous links and read through the timeline events. And also be sure to read the comments on my previous posts, many of which were left by Davontae’s mother, Taminko Sanford.]

Here, before we go any farther, is the Reddit post:

redditdavontae3

The conversation which resulted from the post is a good one… Sadly, it’s all on Reddit, though. Since yesterday, there have over 500 comments left on the massive social news website in response to my article, and zero left on my site. I don’t mention that because I’m bitter or anything… I just find it kind of fascinating.

The important thing is that people are talking about the case again. I thought, with the feature in the New Yorker almost a year ago, that awareness would grow, and that Davontae would be swept out of jail on a wave of public outrage, but that wave never materialized. Thankfully, though, it looks as though another storm is now gathering on the horizon. Not only have my old posts been making the rounds, but I’ve been talking with a producer at Nightline who seems intent on bringing more attention to Davontae’s plight. So, if all goes well, we should get another chance to break though to the American public in a big way shortly.

I should add that, while most of the comments left on Reddit were supportive of my position, not all were. Here are a few of my favorites, taken from both sides. (I should add that I’ve slightly edited the following comments in hopes of making them more readable. If you’d like to read them as they were posted, just follow the link above.)

Blaghart:

Some of the information presented is less than accurate. There was a ruling last year by a judge not to revoke (Sanford’s) guilty plea because some of the people coming to his defense were lying to help him. Particularly, the former police chief who said he was with Sanford at the time (of the murders). Cell records prove he was lying, and he was in a relationship with Sanford’s aunt at the time.

Basically the reason he hasn’t been released is that the cops wrote the confession for him, didn’t record (their interrogation of him) until after he signed it, where they read it back to him (which means his confession has “incriminating details that only the police/perpetrator could know”), and the people trying to help him are lying to do so, only making things worse.

Plus, for a judge to overturn his plea without concrete proof of a forged confession sets a bad precedent for using confessions in future cases.

Edited to respond to some common questions:

I did some digging (which is how I know about Sanford’s witnesses lying) and basically….

The confession Sanford signed was typed, without his parents or lawyer present, and signed. The police did not record their interrogation of Sanford, only the part after he had signed, when they read it back to him.

Also, a lot of you seem to think I’m passing judgement. I’m not. Op’s source doesn’t present all the facts. An,d while Sanford may be innocent, the judge cannot throw out his plea for a number of reasons:

Those coming to Sanfords aid have been lying to help him. This has been proven, meaning their (testimony) is inadmissible.

The way our law system works is based on precedents. This means judges pass rulings based on previous similar situations. If Sanford’s confession is ignored without definative proof that it was forged and coerced (which presently doesn’t exist because the police didn’t record the interrogation) then every criminal who has confessed and pled guilty could have their case appealed on grounds of a false confession. (This includes) several million guilty criminals who accepted plea bargains. This then, to the judge, becomes a question of openning the floodgates on millions of criminals who have pled guilty to save one.

One person whose witnesses have lied for him.

Because there are lies on both sides, a judge is forced to be impartial and rule on the evidence. Sanford cannot have his confession thrown out without evidence it is faulty… which isn’t just that the Detroit police didn’t video tape it. That’s evidence of misconduct by police, but not evidence of a forged confession. This is why the judge has ruled as he has despite the claims/confessions of others.

To everyone who says they’d rather set 100 guilty people free than imprison an innocent, you’re not judges, and there’s probably a reason you’re not judges…

The law isn’t written the same way you think it should be. It’s written the way it is. I’m not here to pass judgement, suggest this is acceptable, suggest the police are conniving evil people, or anything. I’m just pointing out that this failure to overturn Sanford’s guilty plea isn’t some conspiracy by the pigs to imprison black people. It’s just how the law works.

Chris-Ohio:

The boy (who is mentally handicapped) was interrogated without an attorney or adult present, and was fed his confession by officers. His mother later hired an attorney who pressured the family into taking a plea deal, because he told (her) that her son was assured life in prison if the case went to trial. That same attorney, according to records obtained by NPR, has been reprimanded by the Michigan Supreme Court for misconduct involving the cases of 16 of his clients for misrepresenting them for short case pleas for high case load profit. Another individual, a convicted hitman, later admitted to the crime. There are elements of the case that are still in question, but the individual was tried as an adult at 14 and remains in prison and will so for up to 90 years without definitive proof of his guilt.

Saxamaphon3:

The hitman lead police to where he dumped the murder weapon, which was recovered. Nearly as cut and dry as it gets.

Chris-Ohio:

Ok, (Smothers) has not been convicted, but he has more evidence linking him to the crime than Sanford, and has admitted repeatedly to the crime, including an offer to testify for Sanford. This is from an article about the case:
“Why would Wayne County’s prosecutors cover up the confession of Vincent Smothers to the Runyon Street slayings and why do they continue to allow a disabled teenager to be framed for the crime? Why do they have a weapon used in the slayings in their possession which was recovered from a suspect’s home, Ernest Nemo Davis, whom Smothers has named as his accomplice, but has failed to charge either with the crimes? Smothers has confessed to the Runyon Street slayings numerous times and once gave his attorney permission to testify in his stead at a hearing for Davontae Sanford, which the prosecutor’s office objected to because it would be hearsay. However, Smothers has confessed to the Runyon Street slayings yet again, this time to Associated Press writer Ed White but what is different this time around is that Smothers told White that he would be willingly to go to court, take the stand and testify that he does not know and has never met Davontae Sanford that Sanford was not part of the Runyon Street slayings in 2007 for which he (Smothers) is guilty.”

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8 Comments

  1. anonymous
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I hope when you made the front page of Reddit you were wearing a pair of these.

    http://jezebel.com/these-liquid-lapdance-pants-store-your-jizz-prevent-un-1138889213

  2. Tim
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand the first guy’s point. Is he saying that they can’t let out anyone who has confessed because then they’d have to let out everyone who has confessed? That makes no sense. In this instance a 14 year old boy with the intellect of a 6 year old was handed a typed confession to sign, without either a parent or an attorney present. How would rectifying that injustice lead to other people in prison arguing that they didn’t really mean it when they confessed? Can’t a distinction be drawn between on thing and the other?

  3. Eel
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    In the movies, all you need is an attractive, determined, young, white, female law student. If you had that, he’d already be out.

  4. site admin
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Here’s a link to the NPR story referenced in Chris-Ohio’s comment above.

    http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/08/13/detroit-murder-case

  5. MX
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    No one gives a shit. It’s Detroit.

  6. Oliva
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    His intellect is sure not that of a six-year-old now. And his artistic productions are delightful. (I am lucky to know this thanks to Mark having encouraged pen pal exchanges with Davontae.) This has to get made right and soon.

  7. Posted June 7, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Judge Brian Sullivan has signed the order. DAVONTAE is going FREE TODAY!!!

    Thank you for support, Mark, and for bringing so much attention to this sickening injustice.

    http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/judge-orders-convicted-detroit-teen-davontae-sanford-to-be-released-from-prison

  8. Mike Smith
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Davontae Sanford’s exoneration fund is at: https://goo.gl/tj7JJn

    Please encourage people to donate. Once he walks out, he won’t be able to buy himself even basic necessities!!

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  1. […] for murders he almost certainly didn’t commit, finally gets national exposure in The New Yorker, Making the front page of Reddit with my post on Davontae Sanford, Disturbing video surfaces of Davontae Sanford being forcefully subdued by prison guards at the age […]

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