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Convicted Detroit Hit Man Hopes to Help Free Man He Says Is Wrongfully Imprisoned

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Vincent Smothers, a Detroit hit man in jail serving a sentence of 52 years for eight murders, has signed a statement confessing to four others. What is notable about this action is not that a convicted murderer is admitting to other slayings. It is the fact that Smothers is doing it in an effort to free another man currently imprisoned for murder.

A sworn affidavit from Smothers was submitted by  lawyers for Davontae Sanford, a 19-year old man who pleaded guilty at the age of 15 to second-degree murder. Sanford now states that the confession was false and is fighting to get his sentence overturned.

Smothers’ statement says that he was hired in the fall of 2007 to kill a drug dealer in a feud between two gangs in Detroit. Sanford, who was 14 at the time, played no role in the murder. In fact, Smothers states saying that, “I have never used a juvenile as an accomplice.”

This is not the first time that Smothers has tried to help Sanford. Recently, he wanted to testify on Sanford’s behalf but his request was denied in February by Wayne County Judge Brian Sullivan.  Sullivan also refused to throw out Stanford’s conviction.

“No one is pressuring or threatening me to testify. I am testifying because Mr. Sanford is innocent of the 4 murders on Runyon Street and should be exonerated,” says 31-year old Smothers. He hopes that by filing the detailed, 3-page affidavit, he can make a differenence in Sanford’s case–and in his life.

When arrested in April of 2008, Sanford confessed to a total of twelve killings. He was convicted for eight.  He has never hid his involvement with the murders on Runyon Street for which Stanford is in jail. And from the beginning, his insistence that the wrong man was imprisoned for those crimes has been routinely ignored.

In his affidavit, Smothers states, “At one point during the interrogation, when I was being escorted to the bathroom, I told a bald detective that they did not have the right person convicted for the Runyon Street murders.”

His statements have thus far fallen on deaf ears. The Wayne County prosecutor’s office has refused to overturn Sanford’s guilty plea, despite Smothers’ confession to police. Physical evidence from the crime scene also supports the story of Smothers, with a gun directly linked to the four murders recovered from a home associated with Nemo, a nickname for the man Smothers says was his accomplice in the killings.

Kim McGinnis, Sanford’s attorney, wants the trial judge’s decision overturned by an appeals court and for her client to be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea. Or, at the very least, she wants permission  to put Smothers on the witness stand.

One man, Vincent Smothers, has owned up to the fact that he has murdered twelve people. Why Wayne County police and prosecutors have continually and inexplicably refused to acknowledge the confessed role of Smothers in the Runyon Street murders is not known. But Smothers is trying to commit one very decent action, and that is to help free a young man who had no role in the crime for which he is imprisoned.

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