A Man Serves Time In Prison For Murders That A Hitman Admits

January 5, 2018 Update:

Davontae Sanford is set to receive $408,000 from the state of Michigan for wrongful conviction.  He spent more than 8 years in prison for murders he did not commit. Detroit News has more on the update.

Vincent “Vito” Smothers is serving 52 years in prison for killing 8 people, including being hired by Detroit Police Department Sergeant David Cobb to kill Cobb’s wife. Smothers is a hit man, and has now confessed to killing 4 other people. The problem is that another man is currently serving time for those murders.

Side note: Cobb was arrested a day after Smothers was arrested for killing Cobb’s wife. Cobb was released after prosecutors said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him. Cobbs remained suspended without pay. In September 2008, Cobb was found dead, hanged in Sterling Heights. It was ruled a suicide.

Vincent Smothers

Vincent Smothers (left) and Devontae Sanford, (right)

In 2007, 14-year old Davontae Sanford, who is illiterate and blind in one eye, walked up to police at a murder scene.  He immediately became a suspect.   Detectives realized that Davontae did not know details about the crime, but his public defender convinced him to avoid trial and enter a guilty plea.  Davontae eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sent to prison.

Smothers has now filed a 26-page affidavit stating;

“I only want to tell the truth in order to prevent an innocent kid from serving time for crimes that I committed. I hope to have the opportunity to testify in court to provide details and drawings of the crime scene that could only be known by the person who committed the crime: me.”

Students and professors from the University of Michigan’s law school’s Innocence Clinic, and The Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University’s law school, filed Smothers’ affidavit in the Wayne County court. They requested hearings on the new evidence and asked that a judge ultimately dismiss Sanford’s guilty plea.

The process could take years, and has taken years.

In 2011, Kym Worthy, the prosecutor, admitted that some aspects of the case “elude explanation.” She still refuses to back away from Devontae’s conviction.

In 2012, Smothers gave a prison interview with the Associated Press. He said then that he wanted to help Davontae. A judge refused to allow Smothers to testify.

Last year (2014) the Michigan Supreme Court didn’t foreclose the possibility to reopen the case but decided that Davontae could not withdraw his guilty plea because of technical procedural reasons.

Attorney Megan Crane of Northwestern University stated:

“We are bringing light to the truth that this system has so long sought to suppress. All that remains now is for one question to be answered: Can the system handle the truth?”

Devontae Sanford, now 22, isn’t eligible for parole until 2046. His new lawyers said he was poorly served by his trial attorney, Robert Slameka, who didn’t challenge Davontae’s alleged confession or police testimony.

The Associated Press contacted attorney Slameka who stated that while he represented Devontae, Devontae would not cooperate with him. Slamenka has a history of discipline and currently has two misdemeanor convictions, and will lose his license to practice law for 6 months starting in May.


Posted on 04/17/2015, in Cases, Devontae Sanford and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 39 Comments.

  1. This kid was screwed by the system. How hard could it be to make this right?


    • Good morning, Mindyme! Based on what I’ve read, it is because Davontae entered a plea of guilty that the prosecutors challenge that he cannot withdraw. He will have to be granted a new trial, but there was no trial. Well, there was a partial trial. The plea was changed to a guilty plea after trial started. That is the procedural function that the prosecutors challenge. Of course, they could waive that because they were the party who offered, and agreed to the court accepting the plea.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. yahtzeebutterfly

    Good thing the students and professors are helping Devontae.


  3. Another outrageous story. So a guy walks up to a murder scene, looks around at things and some cop starts thinking…….he looks like a likely suspect……..and says

    But that was easier than this line of thinking

    No, lets just make an innocent bystander the fall guy. The worst is any lawyer telling him to cop a plea of any kind. No way should that aspect be ignored either.

    Was this his lawyer……………

    I just can’t wrap my head around this crap. I’d be talking to the ethics board, that’s for damn sure.


    • Good morning Racer! Thanks, I needed that laugh.

      Just wondering — if Ted Wafer had not called the cops and admitted to killing Renisha, and a curious, mentally ill teen walked up at the crime scene, would we have seen a different trial?


      • Hey Xena……That is a really good question since we’re seeing that prosecutors are looking to “solve” crimes so easily.


  4. This is why they are called public pretenders their job though we are always told they are to legally represent you in court. its my belief they to work with the state, think about it if there was no such thing as a plea agreement each and every case would have to go to trial.

    and if each and every case goes to trial most people will be walking, as each of the accused are entitled to a speedy trial (Within 90 days) unless of course you waive that right. but think about that for a moment do you really think the local prosecution can prepare for each case within 90 days? (Nope)

    and that is exactly why we have these plea agreements it basically saves the state money and time so they can focus on the more serious cases. and if they can get a youngster like this to make that kind of plea weather he is guilty or not its a feather in their cap they receive all the high fives good jobs etc…. all the while an innocent man is locked up and has lost his life.

    its sad that most do not realize a speedy trial (if accused) is their best shot, it only allows the state 90 days to get their act together and prove it beyond any reasonable doubt.
    However if your in there on a more serious offense the speedy trial isnt always the way to go.


    • Santiago,
      Speaking of speedy trials, a guy was arrested for dealing drugs. He motioned for a speedy trial. The court appointed him a public defender. He said that he didn’t want one. The court paid him no attention. The state attorney motioned and was granted several extensions. Then the man went to trial and was found guilty. He then filed his own motion to vacate the verdict reminding the court that he had motioned for a speedy trial. The court had to grant his motion and vacate the verdict.


      • OMG, I was gonna say!
        But that’s just not cool that judge would grant the prosecution those continuances against the defendant’s rights! what happens when someone gets convicted but doesn’t know to do what that guy did?
        so much is going on in those courtrooms that aren’t fair.


        • Shannon, that’s one of the problems with the criminal justice system. Too often defendants do not know their rights. Here, a guilty man walked free because of the state’s failure to provide a speedy trial, while some innocent defendants sit in jail unable to make bail for a year or more not knowing their right to a speedy trial.


  5. The bottom line, as I see it, is this young man’s public defender fell down on the job. This story just breaks my heart,


  6. Reblogged this on Blissfully Single and commented:
    What a cluster f…


  7. georgiakevin

    Yet another miscarriage of justice in a country that prides itself of having justice for all, Why isn’t there a louder outcry? Thank you for your excellent post and for making your readers aware of this sad case.


    • “Why isn’t there a louder outcry?”

      This is exactly what I keep saying. How on God’s Green Earth does this slip by ? I guess us blue collar people can’t stop and look when there’s a car accident, or an ambulance at somebodies house since, ya know, just being curious, is now reason to become
      “….a person of interest”

      Here’s a new report on AOL about Bates………

      “TULSA, Okla. (AP) – A 73-year-old Oklahoma volunteer deputy charged in the fatal shooting of a suspect in Tulsa went on national television Friday to counter criticisms of his qualifications.

      Speaking publicly for the first time since the April 2 shooting, Robert Bates told NBC’s “Today” show that characterizations of himself as a wealthy donor who paid to join the force are “unbelievably unfair.”

      The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office volunteer also disputed anonymously sourced comments in the Tulsa World newspaper that sheriff’s office supervisors were ordered to falsify his training records. Bates previously said he received active shooter training from Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, but a spokeswoman said Thursday the office has no record of that.

      Bates said Friday that he is certified to be a reserve deputy.

      “I have it in writing,” Bates said.

      Video released by the sheriff’s office shows Eric Harris running and deputies restraining him after an undercover gun deal. Bates said he shot the 44-year-old suspect after confusing his stun gun and handgun.

      “You must believe me, it can happen to anyone,” Bates said.

      Bates said the shooting was accidental and apologized to Harris’ family.

      “I rate this as number one on my list of things in my life that I regret,” he said.

      The Tulsa district attorney has charged Bates with second-degree manslaughter.

      Democratic Rep. Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union have called for an independent investigation of the office. An office spokesman said Thursday it would conduct an internal review of the reserve deputy program.”

      Yeah, right………it could happen to anyone. No, it happened to a 73 year old, untrained wanna be, that is armed and who claims he is authorized simply because he donates his money and material items. Isn’t that called vigilantism is some circles ??

      Liked by 1 person

      • georgiakevin

        “Happen to anyone?” How? I agree with you, this is law enforcement run a muck and it was going on long before Rodney king. I have been told that in the deep south where i live if the sheriff doesn’t like you there are a lot of dry wells where he can just disappear you.


        • To be honest, my dad was a cop from ’57 to ’86 and even in NJ, that is often the case. As sad as that is to fathom, it’s true.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Kevin! Thanks for your kind words. It was a railroad job. The prosecutor can stop it in a heartbeat, and should stop it in half a heartbeat.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Mr. Militant Negro

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.


  9. UNBELIEVABLE!! these ppl in LE have gotta be the worst ppl on earth!! what possible satisfaction could there be putting an innocent kid in prison for his whole life?
    there’s just not enough decent ppl on earth I’m starting to think.


    • Shannon, they get lollipops come election time, using wrongful convictions to promote how they are prosecuting “violent criminals.” The biggest turn-off for me when hearing campaigns for State prosecutors is when they come out with the numbers of how many cases they “successfully” prosecuted. Some of the crimes that citizens want them to prosecute go no further than a written report because sentencing is not enough for SA bragging rights.


  10. The prosecutor obviously hate to admit a mistake but it is more horrible to let someone pay for your mistake. How immoral! I am coming to the point that in any murder trial, the public defender should not be representing anyone. In these cases, the judge should have a list of firms and each one would have to come up to bat. The prosecutors and police will have to work for their pay.


    • Gronda, you make a good point. Public defenders, like prosecutors, are paid by taxpayers. I would like to see an elected official over the office of public defenders, just as State Attorneys are elected. At least voters can hold them to accountability at the ballot box.


  11. This makes me sad and angry and frustrated. Can the system handle the truth? Apparently not. The poor kid obviously has some sort of mental disability and for the system to rape him of his life like this is DISGUSTING!


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