Imagine finding yourself sitting in prison, facing a life sentence for a crime you didn’t commit. Can you envision the pain that could cause to you and your family? Detroit’s exonerees don’t have to imagine it; they’ve lived the nightmare. They tell of their struggles to adapt to prison life after their wrongful convictions, their resolve to clear their names, the joy they felt when they finally were exonerated, the people and experiences they lost while incarcerated, and their determination to put their lives back together.
Dec 9, 2019
In 2008, the Detroit Police Crime Lab was shut down after a Michigan State Police audit found rampant problems with evidence. Auditors randomly selected 200 cases and found problems with 10 percent of them. David Moran, director of the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic, says there was widespread fraud in the Detroit crime lab, which he said is summed up by the case of Desmond Ricks. Crime lab detectives are accused in a lawsuit of writing a report falsely stating two bullets used to murder a Detroit man matched a .38 revolver police took from Ricks’ house — but after Ricks was convicted and served 25 years in prison, Michigan State Police during an appeal re-investigated the bullets and proved they could not have been fired from the gun taken from Ricks’ house. Moran said that sort of thing went on regularly at the Detroit crime lab.
Dec 2, 2019
Two weeks after 15-year-old Davontae Sanford was sent to prison for a quadruple homicide he insists he didn’t commit Detroit police made an arrest that threw the case into chaos. A hitman named Vincent Smothers confessed to 12 murders — including the four for which Sanford had just been convicted. Prosecutors charged the hitman with 8 of the murders he’d confessed to, but despite Smothers’ detailed confession about the other four murders that had been blamed on Sanford, including telling police where one of the murder weapons was hidden, Smothers was never charged with those four killings. Innocence advocates say prosecutors wanted to avoid a trial to cover up their wrongful conviction of a teenager, while prosecutors insist they merely followed the evidence police gave them.
Nov 26, 2019
Supporters of Davontae Sanford say his case exposes problems at every step of the criminal justice system. Sanford was 14 years old in 2007 when he was arrested for a quadruple homicide in a Detroit drug house. Sanford claims police tricked him into confessing to the crime; and that his defense attorney, who was later disbarred for unethical behavior, pressured him to plead guilty to second-degree murder because the lawyer said he knew the judge, who’d hand down a light sentence. At age 15, Sanford was sentenced to 39 to 90 years in adult prison. Two weeks after Sanford was sent to prison, the case was thrown into chaos when police arrested a hit man named Vincent Smothers, who confessed to the four killings for which Sanford had just been convicted.
Nov 17, 2019
The Detroit Police Department spent 13 years under federal oversight after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation in 2000 alleged police for decades had practiced unconstitutional policing. Federal authorities say Detroit cops had a pattern of using excessive force, sometimes resulting in deaths, and routinely arrested witnesses who had committed no crime. Innocence advocates say this practice of rounding up witnesses and leaning on them until they told detectives what they wanted to hear resulted in numerous wrongful convictions.
Nov 11, 2019
Detroit News crime reporter George Hunter introduces "Motor City Injustice," the first season of "Sins of Detroit." This first 5-part season focuses on wrongdoings and wrongful convictions by the Detroit Police Department. It starts Nov. 12 here and wherever you get your podcasts.
Nov 5, 2019