AT THE END OF BLACK MAN’S PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS IS LAW AS IMAGE. From [HERE] and [HERE] A federal judge dismissed Detroit from a civil rights lawsuit brought by a man who spent eight years in prison for four murders he didn’t commit, finding the city is immune from his claims of police misconduct because of its 2013 bankruptcy.
Davontae Sanford was 14 years old when he was convicted in 2008 of murdering four people after pleading guilty. Another person later confessed to the crimes and said Sanford was not involved.
An investigation found that Sanford’s confession was a result of misconduct by Detroit police. Sanford was freed in 2016 after spending eight years behind bars, and filed a federal lawsuit against Detroit and Officers Sergeant Michael Russell and Detroit deputy chief of police, James Tolbert [sambo rolebots in photo].
U.S. District Judge David Lawson [racist suspect in photo] ruled Tuesday that while Sanford can pursue his case against the officers, his claims against the city must be dismissed.
Lawson ruled Tuesday that Davontae Sanford couldn’t recover from the city of Detroit, even though his murder conviction wasn’t vacated until July 2016.
“Detroit’s intervening bankruptcy bars Sanford’s claim against the city in this court because the final plan of adjustment discharged prepetition claims and the plaintiff is enjoined from pursuing his claim against the city except as the plan allows,” the judge wrote.
Sanford was 14 years old at the time of the quadruple murder near his home in September 2007. When police arrived, Sanford approached them, still wearing his pajamas, and asked what was going on. Sanford was blind in one eye, functionally illiterate and had a learning disability.
There was no gunshot residue on Sanford’s hands, and no blood on his clothes or body. Nevertheless, he was unlawfully arrested, detained in violation of the 4th Amendment and questioned over two days without a parent or attorney present. Also Sgt. Russell’s failure to read Davontae his Miranda rights prior to interrogating him was a clear violation of Miranda, precisely the kind of two-step tactic (question first, Mirandize only after obtaining a statement) that the United States Supreme Court condemned. [MORE] He signed a written confession that said he was present when the shooting was planned. The only accurate part of the confession consisted of details of the crime inserted by officers, Lawson said.
“The defendants lied to Sanford during the interrogation, telling him he would be free to go afterwards, also falsely telling him that blood from the scene had been found on his shoes,” according to a summary of Sanford’s complaint in Lawson’s ruling.
In a second round of questioning, police “concocted another written confession” with additional details, Lawson said. “Sanford was charged with four counts of first-degree murder,” Lawson wrote, but during his trial, he “entered a midtrial guilty plea to the four murder charges,” which were “reduced to second-degree murder and one firearm count.” He was sentenced to 39 to 92 years in prison.
Two weeks later, police arrested another man who confessed to the crime, along with several other murders. The new suspect was a professional hit man, and he said Sanford was not involved in the quadruple murder. Russell, one of the questioning officers, told him to stop talking about the Runyon Street shootings.
Smothers was charged with eight of the 12 murders to which he had confessed his involvement, but was not initially charged with the Runyon Street killings.
Michigan State Police investigated the case in 2015, and Deputy Police Chief Tolbert [in photo] admitted that he had fabricated evidence to convict the Black teen. Specifically, the Black cop testified that Sanford drew a diagram of the crime scene from scratch - but the cop the drew it himself. Tolbert later became Flint’s police chief. [MORE]
Prosecutor Kym Worthy waited eight months before notifying Davontae Sanford’s attorneys about the exculpatory evidence, according to the Michigan State Police report.
Michigan’s code of conduct for prosecutors mandates that prosecutors “make a timely disclosure to the defense of evidence that could exonerate a suspect.” That Worthy wanted to investigate information from the report was not relevant to whether information was exculpatory and therefore should have been disclosed to the defense. Exculpatory evidence is any material evidence that may tend to negate guilt. Impeachment evidence like a confession that the police chief lied in court and told more lies to investigators should have been turned over immediately.
Sanford was released in July 2016 and sued the city 14 months later alleging due process violations, malicious prosecution and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He also claimed that Detroit endorsed the practice of handling high-profile cases by hastily arresting any available suspect while ignoring evidence that points elsewhere. He claimed the city of Detroit endorsed the conduct of the officers through policies and practices of pursuing rushed, shoddy investigations in high-profile cases to secure quick arrests and convictions of any available suspect.
The city argued that it was barred from being sued as a result of its 2013 bankruptcy, and Judge Lawson agreed.
“The courts that have considered the question uniformly have concluded that claims based on prepetition malicious prosecutions were barred,” Lawson wrote, “notwithstanding that the plaintiff could not file suit on his claims until his criminal conviction was overturned.”
Officers Tolbert and Russell argued that they too should be dismissed from the case, calling Sanford’s guilty plea and the appeals court’s upholding of his conviction “superseding causes” that bar his case.
But Lawson disagreed with the officers’ “curious position.”
“The defendants’ position that they should be absolved of liability for stacking the deck against the plaintiff because their efforts to corner him into a guilty plea succeeded is nonsense, and they cite no authority to support it,” the judge wrote.
The judge also allowed Sanford to pursue his ADA claim against the officers.
“He has plausibly alleged that his mental condition was such that he reasonably could have given his answer in the criminal proceeding inadvertently or by mistake – i.e., because he did not fully understand the nature and consequences of the question posed to him,” Lawson wrote.
The prosecution of the Black teen was carried out by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, a Back probot.
Detroit TV journalist Bill Proctor helped bring the problems with Sanford's case to light, Sanford's story is "sickening," and called Kym Worthy's defense of how it played out "another horrific chapter."
“The real bottom line is…anybody with a title like prosecutor can stand behind process and procedure," Proctor said. "This was about her having in her hands, in her custody, with police backing, clear-cut information and evidence that an adult was paid to do these murders...
“And for her to show all these bits and pieces of paper, that this diminished 14-year-old child signed to say this is our proof and justification for incarcerating this innocent child, is crap.” [MORE]
State police asked for perjury charges against Tolbert after they say he admitted to detectives he'd drawn a map of the crime scene on Runyon. That statement conflicted with 2010 testimony in which he said Sanford had drawn the diagram.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy declined to charge Tolbert, mainly because she said Sanford would not testify. Sanford called that “a lie” and said he was willing to testify against Tolbert after his case was formally dismissed. [MORE]
Sanford received $408,000 from the state of Michigan in a compensation program for wrongfully convicted people, the Associated Press reported in January.