Wrongfully convicted man brings civil suit against Detroit and cops

Posted at 11:09 PM, Sep 18, 2017

A man wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for nine years has filed a civil suit against the City of Detroit and two police officers.

Davontae Sanford was 14 years old when he was convicted for a quadruple homicide that happened on Runyon St. on Detroit’s east side in 2007.

Police called it a known drug house.

Sanford lived in the area and approached officers at the scene.

"They grab him and they start interrogating him,” said Bill Goodman, Davontae Sanford’s attorney.

Goodman said officers coerced Sanford into confession for the murder and even later, when another known hitman confessed to actually committing the quadruple murder, officers didn’t release that information.  

"How could they take the confession of a person who actually did the murders and tell them no, we already solved that crime, don't say anything about that,” said Goodman.
Sanford, who had a learning disability and couldn’t read was sentenced to prison for years.

"He spends 9 of them in an adult prison as a 14 year old kid, much of that time in solitary confinement,” said Goodman.

The conviction was overturned and Sanford was released from prison in 2016 at the age of 23. 

"It was sloppiness, it was laziness, and in it's heart it was evil,” said Goodman. 
The civil complaint names the City of Detroit and two police officers, James Tolbert and Michael Russell.

"What this kind of case is about in a large degree is to say do not do this again,” said Goodman.

Goodman said he doesn’t have a dollar amount he’s seeking. 

"It's up to a jury and a judge to decide someday, but certainly you're talking about millions and millions of dollars,” said Goodman.

7 Action News reached out to the City of Detroit for comment:

"We have just received the complaint and are carefully reviewing the allegations. As this matter is in active litigation, the City will not comment other than through its filed pleadings and through the evidence presented in court,” said Melvin ‘Butch’ Hollowell, the attorney for the City of Detroit.