A nation that prides itself as having the best justice system in the
world should tolerate no room for corruption, lies and misconduct that
sends an innocent child to prison for a crime he did not commit. Not
even for a day, much less 37-90 years in prison.
And if we remain silent in the face of that injustice, we are
committing a greater crime than the oppressors by not standing up, hold
our heads high, and fight for his life. For the life we save today may
very well be our sons’ and daughters’ tomorrow. And in the end we are
defending not only his rights, but rights of each and every one of us to
due process and equality under the law.
Indeed, one of the most fundamental principles under our Constitution
says that no man, woman, or child should be deprived of life, liberty
or property without due process of law. The inalienable right to liberty
draws from that principle of due process – a principle the new founded
nation saw fit to include in our Constitution as a covenant to the
people that our government would never commit the sins of the British
Crown in denying its citizens their inalienable right to liberty.
We stand here today to remind this prosecutor and her minions next
door at 1300 Beaubien who stole Davontae Sanford’s liberty without due
process of law that those guarantees are not written in our federal
Constitution for mere window dressing! A child who was stolen from his
mother’s embrace and given to the state as a slave in violation of due
process of law is an act of wickedness, treachery and deceit by the
highest levels of government on this corner!
Today, ladies and gentlemen, we come on the authority of a power
higher than any judge of this court, soldiers we are with truth as our
weapon and courage as our armor to stand before this court and tell the
world what the Wayne County Prosecutor and Detroit Police have lied and
denied about for five years now. And in that endeavor, we will not
cower, we will not whisper and we will not be afraid. For truth is our
Here today we stand at the Crossroads of Justice and Righteousness,
for we are guided by an almighty hand to stand here and condemn the
Wayne County Prosecutor and the Detroit Police for their enormous
Due process and liberty are inalienable rights to us all. Those are
sacred principles written in our Constitution and sung from the hearts
of souls like Dr. King, Harriett Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick
Douglass, and far away heroes like Nelson Mandela, Ghandi and Che
Guevara. It is a universal language understood by all mankind. Liberty –
more valuable than gold. As Patrick Henry, one of the nation’s founding
fathers once remarked, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
And it is on the shoulders of giants like these heroes that we draw
the courage today to condemn the shameful misdeeds of the Wayne County
Prosecutor and Detroit Police in stealing liberty and depriving due
process of law from 14 year old Davontae Sanford. Shame on you all!
When government begins to assault our freedom, we must fight to
defend it, lest the nation descends into the abyss of tyranny. For sure,
they who are corrupt have committed a tremendous dishonor to the
people, are the greatest threat to our freedoms, and have declared war
on liberty. Indeed, when government descends into tyranny and deprives
people of their right to due process and a fair trial, freedom is on the
throes of extinction.
Nearly five years ago, on September 17, 2007, Davontae Sanford, a
fourteen year old mentally disabled boy who could only read on a second
grade level, and blind in one eye, left his home in his pajamas shortly
after 1 a.m. to investigate police activity at a home on Runyon Street
not far from his home. Curiously, as most children would do, Davontae
walked up to the scene and asked one of the officers what was going on.
One of the officers told him, “You know what’s going on,” and took him
Ever since that day, that fateful day, Davontae has suffered a
tremendous injustice, ladies and gentlemen. After hours of
interrogations that began at 4 a.m. and again at 9:30 p.m. that
following day, and after two police-prepared statements were put in
front of this 14 year old kid and told this is what he did, Davontae was
instructed to adopt the police officer’s typewritten confessions that
sent him to prison for 37-90 years – a virtual life sentence for a kid
who was only 14 years old. Tragically, he did not realize what they had
just done to him in that interrogation room.
In the first statement prepared at 4 a.m. by police, Davontae’s role
in the killing was not clear at all. He does not even place himself at
the scene of the crime. They knew they had a problem getting a
conviction with that statement because it was seriously lacking any
evidence of admissions of guilt to anything. So they were not satisfied,
ladies and gentlemen.
Seventeen hours later, at 9:30 p.m., they picked him up again, and
prepared another statement in which they told Davontae he actually
helped commit the murders and had him sign a confession to it all.
Davontae, who suffered from a reading comprehension disability, never
read either statement. It was read to him in a leading manner and he was
told to agree to its accuracy.
Now, never mind that the interrogations were done in violation of
Michigan law that required a parent or attorney present for a child
under the age of 16 to ensure the proceedings were done without
violating his right to remain silent or to seek the assistance of
counsel. But we know from having watched the video of the interrogation
and having read the two statements prepared by Detroit Police, Davontae
did not confess to anything. Information from the crime scene was fed to
him by the interrogating officer who then leadingly asked Davontae if
the statements were true. Davontae, willing to please his interrogator,
answered affirmatively. And this they call a confession? Don’t insult us
with that nonsense!
In the interval between 4 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. interrogations, Detroit
Police, realizing they had a mentally disabled kid, employed a buddy
system whereby they took him to the Coney Island, let him play on the
computers in their office, won his trust and deceived him into believing
he would be a big man if he confessed to the murders on Runyon Street.
Davontae answered affirmatively to their questions to please his
interrogators, believing they would let him go home. You can’t blame a
child under those circumstances! Instead, look at the officers’ conduct!
But Detroit Police got sloppy. Oh yes, they got very sloppy. They
induced Davontae to identify four accomplices in his statements but
against whom the prosecutor never filed charges the moment those
accomplices’ alibi defenses stood up. If the accomplice portion of
Davontae’s confession was not true, would that not cause you to question
the reliability of his entire statement? Of course, his version of
events were not reliable!
In addition, ladies and gentlemen, ballistics evidence at the crime
scene seriously undermined the statements in which the officers induced
Davontae to say he used a Mini-14 to help kill the victims. It is
undisputed, however, that Mini-14 casings were not found at the scene.
It is also undisputed that police never found the Mini-14 they say in
Davontae’s statement that he used. Nor for that matter did the
prosecution ever argue that Davontae threw the gun away. He did not
throw the gun away, ladies and gentlemen, because he never possessed
that firearm, he was never at the Runyon Street house, he did not commit
those murders, and they know it!
They got sloppy, oh yes, no doubt. The injustices go on, ladies and
gentlemen. Then, there was the confession and testimony by another
defendant, a total stranger to Davontae, who confessed to the crimes
with greater detail and for whom all the forensics evidence corroborated
his version of the murders – well known freelance self-professed hit
man Vincent Smothers. The AK-47 weapon Smothers admitted to using
matched the ballistics evidence found at the Runyon Street killings and
at the scene of another murder he committed. In addition, Smothers
identified an accomplice in the Runyon Street killings who used a 45
pistol, which when found, also clearly matched some of the casings and
bullets at the crime scene. Again, the forensics evidence in this case
clearly corroborated Smothers’ rendition of events that day in which he
confessed to committing the murders.
It does not stop there, ladies and gentlemen. Here’s some more truth
medicine that the prosecutor and Detroit Police have kept from the
public. In his various statements admitting to the Runyon Street
killings, Smothers also provided evidence that a .40 caliber pistol
taken from that home was used in yet another contract killing he carried
out on an officer’s wife at a CVS store in Detroit. Davontae, in his
statement, never mentioned anything about a 40 caliber pistol. That
makes sense, don’t you think when Detroit Police at the time they
prepared his statement did not know about the 40 caliber pistol until
Smothers confessed to the crime a year later! Who do they think we are
to believe this nonsense!
But the sloppiness does not stop there, ladies and gentlemen. Let me
know when I am really hitting the nerve cell at 1300 Beaubien! Smothers
in his confession described in detail the amount of drugs and money
taken from the Runyon Street killings, a fact conspicuously missing from
Davontae’s so-called confession.
Oh, I’m not done yet! Allah take my hand as I speak the truth! In
Smother’s unadulterated confession, he also identified a six year old
boy who was in a back bedroom with a female victim who survived the
killings. In the statement Detroit Police prepared for Davontae,
however, there is no mention of this six year old kid. Good police work,
or sloppy interrogation? You tell me. Sloppy, and they were slipping.
I’m not done yet. Even more interesting is the fact that in neither
of their respective confessions does Davontae or Smothers identify the
other as aiding each other in the murders. In fact, Smothers, a
methodical, professional hitman, admitted he never previously knew
Davontae or employed him to help carry out these murders. It makes
sense, don’t you think? Why would Smother’s, a professional hit man who
identified his accomplice as someone other than Davontae, need a 14 year
old mentally disabled kid who is blind in one eye help him commit the
murders? Also, why would Smothers take the risk in allowing such an
amateur killer escape his grasp and allow him to go home rather than
keep him under his watch to be sure he would not tell his mother or the
police about his role in the murders?
Let me know, Kym Worthy, when you want me to stop! She wants to play
Lady Macbeth, treacherous as she is, in now silencing Smothers! She and
Judge Sullivan of this Court, who recently denied Davontae’s motion to
withdraw his ill-advised guilty plea to these murders based on
newly-discovered evidence of Smothers’ confession. Smothers, ladies and
gentlemen, after several legal maneuvers with the prosecutor’s office in
attempting to get immunity in exchange for testifying on the witness in
Davontae’s favor, recently indicated to the Associated Press that he is
now willing to take the stand without a grant of immunity, feeling
atoned for his crimes after learning that Davontae was wrongfully
convicted of them based on police and prosecutorial misconduct in
extracting a bogus confession from him and inducing him to plea to the
Just recently in a 29 page opinion and order, Judge Sullivan of this
Court compounded the wrongs committed in this case by abusing his
discretion in refusing to allow Smothers a third chance to finally get
on that witness stand and tell truth. In his ruling, he said –
incredibly – that despite newly-discovered evidence of Smothers’ role in
the murders, Davontae has not met his burden of establishing actual
innocence. Judge Sullivan ruled that there is no basis to conclude that
Davontae’s confession was false. He further ruled that Smothers’
confession, standing alone, is insufficient to warrant granting
Davontae’s motion to withdraw his ill-advised guilty pleas. Really?
Perhaps Judge Sullivan was asleep when all the facts and evidence about
Smothers’ role was played for the world to hear and which we repeat
today! No, he was not asleep! He knows better than to believe that
fanciful make believe law he issued! He further corrupted this case that
started at the crime scene on September 17, 2007 and ended right on his
desk with his 29 page ruling that distorted the facts, contained
critical gaps with respect to problems with Davontae’s confession, and
ignored other key evidence pointing to Smothers’ guilt in the killings.
For instance, Judge Sullivan talks about a crime scene sketch Davontae
drew pinpointing the victims’ locations in the house. I have that sketch
and it was not drawn by Davontae; it was drawn by the officer who
interrogated him and as with his confession, he had Davontae sign it.
How dare you deliberately misrepresent the evidence, while ignoring all the other evidence of this child’s innocence!
How dare you ignore the fact that Smothers provided detailed
evidence, ranging from the amount of drugs and money taken from the home
to the forensics evidence corroborating his version of the types of
weapons that were used in the murders!
How dare you ignore the fact that one of the murder weapons used in this case was indeed found at Smother’s accomplice’s home!
How dare you ignore the fact that Smother’s also correctly stated
that a six year old kid was in the back bedroom of that home the night
of the murders!
How dare you ignore the fact that the AK-47 used in that crime was
the same weapon Smothers used in a different contract killing!
How dare you ignore the fact that the .40 caliber weapon Smothers
used to kill a police officer’s wife was taken from the Runyon Street
You, Judge Sullivan, are not worthy of garnishing your robe for
further corrupting this case and condemning this child to a life
sentence by willingly sweeping all this evidence under the rug! What are
you hiding! You are hiding the truth! You and the prosecutor are hiding
the truth that the officers who extracted Davontae’s confession did so
under highly coercive tactics in which trickery, deceit and mischief
were employed. Indeed, this judge, the police and the prosecutor’s
office are in lockstep in denying justice, betraying our trust and
committing a great crime.
What are they afraid of in allowing Smothers to testify, who has
nothing to gain but everything to lose by getting on that witness stand
and telling the truth? What are they hiding? Their own wrongdoing!!
That’s what! From the moment Smothers’ confessed, they realized they had
a huge problem on their hands in that Davontae’s ill-advised plea to
the charges came full circle. So what do they do? They make him their
sacrificial lamb to their corruption, lies and deceit!! It is
treacherous, ladies and gentlemen and one I will never forget!
It is unconscionable, yes, downright outrageous what you did, Judge
Sullivan, in ignoring the truth, ignoring the facts and denying this
child justice! This 29 page decision by the Court is not the law! This
is garbage in violation of the truth! An injustice further perpetrated
by a judge who is now complicit in the corruption of condemning this
young child to prison for crimes he did not commit! That child’s blood
is now on the hands of this court!
There is absolutely no physical evidence that connects Davontae to
these murders! Nor was there ever any connection between Davontae and
Smothers. Only after Smothers confessed to the crimes a year later did
the prosecutor alter its theory that he and Davontae helped each other.
But what they don’t tell you is that when Davontae entered a factual
basis for his plea prior to Smothers confession, he never identified
Smothers as his accomplice in court. I challenge the prosecutor to prove
me wrong! She won’t because she cannot!! Clear the smoke bombs, ladies
and gentlemen, and see the truth!
Why, Ms. Worthy, do you continue to deny this child justice? What
victory do you get in the war on crime by continuing to refuse to
confess error and set this child free? Kym Worthy knows she can stop the
appeals process right now by filing a Confession of Error with the
Court of Appeals. This is why we are here today. The power in his her
hands to do justice; do the right thing.
What victory is there for the family members of those four murdered
victims in knowing a child was wrongfully convicted of those murders
while Smothers and his accomplice, who walks free in the streets of
Detroit today to carry out more murders, remain uncharged! There is no
victory in sending an innocent child to prison.
Hear us, Ms. Worthy, and obey! Obey the principles of due process, a
fair trial and the laws of humanity! Obey, indeed, the word of God,
Pharaoh of this Court, and set this child free! You are committing a
greater crime in continuing to condemn him to prison, rob him of life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He will never be able to get a
high school diploma, raise a family and live life to his fullest all
because her sin is pride. She, who lectures us about justice is no
Guardian of Justice, let me tell you! She who denigrates the principles
of justice just as she does violence to the presumption of innocence!
With this shame; with this crime against a child, you – you have denied
justice; killed our faith in the system, and betrayed our trust. Shame
Kym Worthy would do well to heed the admonishment of Freedom Fighter
Frederick Douglass when he said, “No man can put a chain about the ankle
of his fellow man without at least finding the other end fastened about
his own neck.” Your crime in condemning this innocent child is
enormous; and here again you leave a trail of tears. Come down from
these steps, look his mother in the eye and dare you tell her that
Smothers got it all wrong!
The police, the prosecutor and the judge in this case offer the world
a drink from the well of deception. We, however, offer you a drink from
the Fountain of Truth! They build barriers to the truth, dropping smoke
bombs, lying and denying along the way,
We refuse to settle with any notion that our son’s life is that cheap
that we must move on and let him rot with the prosecutor salivates with
the blood of innocence in her mouth! She who professes to be the
guardian of justice has violated it!
Where is there justice, where is there equity in condemning a young
boy to a virtual life sentence and rob him of all hope, all dreams of
getting his diploma, going to college, growing in this society, living a
full life and raising a family?
Where is justice and equity in knowing they wrongfully convicted this
child only to aggravate that travesty by playing ignorance about it all
today! But we will not be silent in the face of this corruption! We
will not tremble before the evildoers! We will never let this prosecutor
and the police who railroaded this fine young man to a life sentence
forget their enormous crime! Indeed, we will forever keep him indelibly
on their minds until he comes home!
I want to assure you, Taminko, that until justice is done, we will
not tire, we will not falter and we will not surrender! And in saying
so, I am inspired by the words of comrade Fidel Castro of Cuba, who
inspired a nation for more than 50 years to stare down the oppressors
who imposed a criminal embargo against that nation: Siguimos hasta la
victoria! Onward to victory! You are not alone in your suffering. We
suffer with you and stand by you until this wrong is corrected. Until
Davontae comes home!
Until that is done, Taminko, we will fight on. Because Davonte is my
son, my brother, my child as well! We will get victory and renew the
spirit of justice under the law. For I am moved by the words of a former
All my life I have been called a slave;
They tells me I belongs to my master.
That may be true about my body.
But my soul remembers a time when I was free.
So when I get a chance . . . I WILL RUN!
Transcript of Speech by Roberto Guzman, Legal Assistant of the
People’s Task Force to Free The Wrongfully Convicted, given on the steps
of the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice on April 23, 2012.
By Davontae Sanford