Davontae Sanford speaks publicly after his release from prison
DETROIT (WJBK) - The Detroit man who was released from prison this week after eight years spoke publicly for the first time Thursday afternoon at a press conference. Family members and his attorney stood by his side.
Davontae said at the press conference that he's not playing the blame game. "It's over. I'm out. That's all I really wanted was my freedom." He added that he's looking forward to learning how to drive and maybe even get his driver's license.
Davontae was 15 when he pleaded guilty to four murders and was imprisoned in 2008. He's 23 years old now. Sanford walked out of prison Wednesday, after a judge erased the guilty pleas at the request of Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy.
The case appeared closed and unremarkable until lawyers discovered a hit man's confession to the same killings -- along with eight other killings -- just 15 days after Sanford was sent to prison. That touched off years of efforts to get the guilty pleas set aside, but prosecutors resisted at every turn until state police were asked last year to take a fresh look. The hit man's name is Vincent Smothers.
Now 24, Davontae lost his childhood, prom, graduation, and more. Anyone in his shoes would rightfully be angry - but he's not.
"For a while, of course I'd be like, angry, mad. At the end of the day, the people who played a part in it ... what [are] they doing? They're living their life," he said. "So, me, being mad, angry, didn't do nothing. It would just hurt me. What's the use in being mad?"
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy laid out the entire process of getting Davontae freed Thursday afternoon and pointed out the young man entered a guilty plea, even though he didn't do the crime.
"This wasn't a young man that made his decision to plead guilty in a vacuum. He was consistently offered a chance to speak with his family members and any other person he wanted to speak to before he made the decision to plead guilty," Worthy said.
Bill Proctor, a former TV journalist in Detroit and founder of Proving Innocence has played a key role in getting Davontae released. He tore into the comments made by Worthy.
"Kym Worthy did not mention today that in this long running explanation of process and procedure, tehre was no seeking of true justice. It was just a matter of taking step one, to step two, to this judge, to this prosecutor, to this appeal. The real bottom line is she had the authority that she essentially did not use," Proctor said.
Davonate talked about staying focused while behind bars. He read, wrote, and got an education because he knew he would be freed someday. He says his goal now is to continue his education, focus on young people who are at risk, and has a message to anyone incarcerated: stay strong.
Earlier on Thursday, Prosecutor Worthy also held a news conference in which she defended the way her office handled the case. You can read more about her comments here.