Sanford speaks out after perjury warrant denied for Detroit officer who put him away

Sanford: I was hurt

By John Steckroth - Editor, Paula Tutman - Reporter

DETROIT - Davontae Sanford spoke out against Tuesday's announcement that the Wayne County prosecutor denied a perjury warrant against former Detroit Police Deputy Chief James Tolbert in the case which sent Sanford to prison for eight years when he was 14 years old.

“I was hurt,” Sanford said. “Every time I turn around, like, I’m the one being attacked when I’m the one that was being victimized. I was the one in prison for a crime I didn’t commit. I was holding to that maybe, just maybe, she would do the right thing this time.”

Sanford said he is being unfairly represented by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

“I think the main reason she didn’t want to charge Tolbert is because, you got to think about it, if he lied on my case, how many other cases he did lie on?” Sanford said. “I don’t think she wants to deal with that.”

The allegation of perjury stems from testimony Tolbert gave about a sketch of the crime scene that Sanford had drawn. Worthy said Sanford not testifying to material issues of facts in the case is a profound impediment. She said it would be impossible to prove a perjury case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Prosecutor Worthy released the following statement:

In order to proceed with perjury charges, we must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Tolbert’s testimony on July 13, 2010, was false. There were only three witnesses to the drawing of the sketch in question. Two of them, Davontae Sanford and James Tolbert are unavailable to us. The third person is Sgt. Michael Russell, and his testimony does not support a perjury charge. The bottom line is that there is an important legal distinction between acting on evidence that undermines a conviction, and proving beyond a reasonable doubt that someone has committed perjury.”

Sanford spent eight years in prison after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the midst of trial and was sentenced to a minimum of 39 years in prison. This year, Wayne County Third Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan signed an order vacating Sanford's conviction and sentence.

Discrepancies between statements made by Tolbert under oath in 2010 and during a Michigan State Police interview in 2015 led to the warrant request. Sanford is considered a key witness but asserted his 5th Amendment privilege.

“I told them that once the charges were dropped I would testify. She know this. She don’t want to charge him because if she were to charge him she’s scarred of what he might say and who he might, like, point fingers at,” Sanford said.

Three people were present when the sketch was drawn: Tolbert, Sanford, and Detroit police Sgt. Michael Russell.

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