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Developmentally Disabled Man Released From Prison After Pleading Guilty to Slayings as a Teen


Developmentally Disabled Man Released From Prison After Pleading Guilty to Slayings as a Teen (GoFundMe)

A judge has thrown out the murder convictions of a Detroit man who pleaded guilty to four slayings when he was 14 years old.

Read: Man Who Spent 34 Years in Prison For Teen's Murder is Freed By DNA Evidence, Says He'll Eat Steak

Davontae Sanford will have his convictions overturned after spending nearly a decade in prison for the 2007 drug den shootings.

Now 23, Sanford will be released on bond until all charges are eventually dropped, per the order of Judge Brian Sullivan at the request of the Wayne County Prosecutor's office.

Sanford and his family have been trying to undo his guilty plea to second-degree murder charges for years. Relatives have claimed he has a developmental disability and was coerced into the confession.

However, a statement from the prosecutor's offe appears to place blame on former Deputy Chief James Tolbert of the Detroit Police.

After the case was reopened in spring of 2015, Tolbert was interviewed as part of the investigation. 

In his recorded interview, "Tolbert contradicts his sworn testimony that Davontae Sanford drew the entire diagram of the crime scene, including the location of the victims' bodies, while being questioned by the police," the statement reads. 

"Recognizing the importance of that testimony, attorneys from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office worked with Davontae Sanford's attorneys from Dykema Gossett to move to dismiss his case."

A call placed to a number lilsted under Tolbert's name rang unamswered Wednesday.

What prosecutors do not mention is that a professional hit man has reportedly been taking responsibility for the murders since 2008.

Read: Man Spends Nearly 5 Months in Rikers Island Prison, Unaware His Bail Was Just $2

"He's not guilty. He didn't do it," Vincent Smothers told the AP in 2012 from prison, where he's serving over 50 years for other crimes. "I understand what prison life is like; it's miserable. To be here and be innocent: I don't know what it's like."

Smothers signed an affidavit attesting to his role in the murders, but it has not been acknowledged by prosecutors, CBS reports.

"I have nothing to gain from testifying about my commission of the Runyon murders," Smothers said. "I only want to tell the truth in order to prevent an innocent kid from serving time for crimes that I committed."

Watch: Diane Sawyer Gets Unprecedented Access to 'Hell' - Rikers Island Prison