Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Commentary- Davontae Sanford conviction medieval justice, part 2 of 2

Smothers and Sanford. Which man's confession would you believe?
Photo: DFP/Mich.Dept. of Corrections photos

Two of the three Sanford protagonists came along shortly after his misbegotten confession. One was a man in his late 20s named Vincent Smothers, the second a seasoned investigator, considered by his peers to be a superior interrogator, Ira Todd.
The pair sat in a room at 1300 Beaubien. Todd wanted to talk murder, and used his skills to identify Smothers’ weaknesses while establishing a rapport with him. Todd opened Smothers up like a sardine can. Smothers was talking murders and many of them, each a paid hit for which he claimed to have made a total of $60,000.
During one session with Todd, Smothers confessed to doing the Runyon Street job, using an accomplice who was not Davontae Sanford. Smothers would later move to have the confessions thrown out, but that was denied. Smothers is in pretrial detention awaiting multiple trials for first degree murder.
Smothers is almost thirty, has been described by Todd as being of above average intelligence, and used weapons like the ones used to execute the Runyon Street four. Stack that up against Sanford’s confession and it’s no contest which is the more believable.
Even so, neither Smothers nor has accomplice has been charged with those four murders. Why not? Because the prosecutor already has someone behind bars for the same killings; to now indict Smothers would be to admit that they put the wrong person away.
Enter Kim McGinnis, a State Appellate Defenders Office (SADO) attorney who is trying to get Sanford’s confession tossed and win him a new trial. Over the past months, McGinnis has put on a number of witnesses that have cast doubt over the teen’s confession and involvement in the crime, and have raised defenses, including an alibi, which could be asserted at a new trial.
McGinnis wanted to call Vincent Smothers but he took the fifth. And why not? He knows that he will eventually be doing life without parole, no one can or will offer him anything, and helping Sanford will just get him four more murder cases to defend. Yet he has said enough already and McGinnis is using that, most recently by calling Ira Todd as a witness.
I won’t summarize Todd’s testimony which has had plenty of media coverage already, but there was a watershed moment during the prosecutor’s cross-x when Joseph Puleo asked Todd to recall a conversation the two men had had about the case. “I don’t want an innocent man locked up in jail,” Todd answered, quoting Puleo.
Well Mr. Puleo, neither do I.

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