Eight years later, a growing pile of evidence and a reported confession by a professional hitman is casting doubt on the conviction.
In 2007, Sanford was sentenced as an adult for the murder of four people on Runyon Street in Detroit. He pleaded guilty and confessed to his involvement. His current attorney says the legal system failed him.
"He only accepted a guilty plea once he was in the middle of a trial and come face to face with the fact that his defense attorney was not going to do anything to defend him," attorney Megan Crane said.
Sanford's mother said his release would be the greatest joy.
"I haven't held Devontae in over eight years," Taminko Sanford Tilmon said. "I don't know. I would be just overwhelmed with joy when I can touch him."
A new confession from a known and convicted hitman has attorneys from the Michigan Innocence Clinic saying Sanford is innocent and deserves a new trial.
That hitman, Vincent Smother, confessed to 12 murders from prison including the four Sanford was convicted of committing.
Smothers wrote in a sworn affidavit that was turned over to the court: "Davontae Sanford is being wrongly incarcerated for crimes I know he did not commit."
Attorneys say this confession is more than enough to warrant a new trial.
"For far too long the truth in this case has been hidden and suppressed Detroit police and prosecutors," Crane said. "That truth is a professional hitman committed the crime for which Davontae Sanford is doing the time."
A spokesperson for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office issued a statement saying they plan to argue its position in court.
Meanwhile a mother and son are making plans for when they will get to be a family again.
"I told him, I said 'when you get home I'm not going to sleep,'" Tilmon said. "He was like 'what do you mean you are not going to sleep?' I said 'I just want to lay and watch you sleep'. I said 'I am not going to sleep the first night you get home.'"
Prosecutors will have about 60 days to respond to this request for a new trial and if they do get that new trial we're told this lengthy and detailed confession from Smothers may be admissible.