Righting Wrongs: Michigan Senate Takes First Step Toward Compensating Wrongfully Convicted Michigan Citizens.

This week Mr. Davontae Sanford was exonerated for a crime he didn’t commit. In 2008, Mr. Sanford was convicted at age 14, after his false confession led to his guilty plea to 2nd degree murder. Only one problem: he didn’t commit the crime.

WMU-Cooley Innocence Project Director Marla Mitchell-Cichon (center) and her team of interns are paving the way to right the wrongs in the criminal justice system. WMU interns: (left to right): Shay Wright, Erika Donner, Ashley Chlebek, Terry Huhn

WMU-Cooley Innocence Project Director Marla Mitchell-Cichon (center) and her team of interns are paving the way to right the wrongs in the criminal justice system. WMU interns: (left to right): Shay Wright, Erika Donner, Ashley Chlebek, Terry Huhn

Shortly after Mr. Sanford’s sentencing hearing, one of the true perpetrators, Vince Smothers told police he committed the crime. But Mr. Sanford’s conviction was not overturned until he was 23, nine years after his conviction. In a press conference on Thursday, Mr. Sanford said, “It’s over. I’m out. That’s all I wanted was my freedom.” But doesn’t this man who went to prison as a child deserve more?

That’s the focus of Senate Bill 291, a law that provides compensation ($50,000 for each year of imprisonment) to wrongfully convicted Michigan citizens. For as many years as Mr. Sanford has been incarcerated, Senator Steve Bieda, the bill’s sponsor, has worked tirelessly for a fair and just compensation law. While Mr. Sanford was enjoying his first full day of freedom, the Michigan Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 291, the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act.

Thirty states, the District of Columbia and the federal government have similar laws. Michigan’s law will provide much needed financial support and services to men and women who never should have spent a day in prison. The Senate vote means the bill will move on to the House of Representatives.

Dear House Members: Mr. Sanford deserves more.


Related bills:

No tax on compensation, SB 860, introduced by Senator David Roberson.

Wrap Around Services Bill, SB 1028, introduced today by Senator Steve Bieda.


mitchellcichon_marlaBlog author, Marla Mitchell-Cichon, is the director of WMU-Cooley Law School’s Innocence Project.  Professor Mitchell-Cichon has extensive practice experience in criminal and poverty law. Her litigation experience includes practicing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the Ohio Supreme Court, and trial courts in both Ohio and Michigan. She joined WMU-Cooley Law School in July 1995 and also teaches in the Sixty Plus, Inc., Elderlaw Clinic and Professional Responsibility.

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Filed under Faculty Scholarship, Latest News and Updates, Student News, Uncategorized, WMU-Cooley Innocence Project

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