- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

DETROIT (AP) - A court hearing on a 16-year-old’s request to throw out his guilty pleas in the slayings of four people was postponed Wednesday to give his lawyer time to view the recorded confession of another man.

Kim McGinnis, a lawyer for Davontae Sanford, said technical problems in the prosecutor’s office prevented her from seeing the police recording ahead of the morning court session.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Brian Sullivan postponed the hearing and ordered that bullets in the case be retested. A new hearing date was not immediately scheduled.

Sanford was sent to prison last year and won’t be eligible for parole until he’s 53. He admitted killing four people at a Detroit drug house in his neighborhood when he was 14, but McGinnis claims the confession was false and another man committed the murders.

Her evidence: a confession to police that was signed nearly a year ago by another man, Vincent Smothers.

The document recently was produced by the prosecutor’s office, but McGinnis also wants to see Smothers’ recorded interview with police.

The judge said he’s interested, too.

“If you want me to watch it, I’ll watch it. … I also want those bullets retested,” Sullivan said.

More than 100 closed cases are under fresh scrutiny because of problems at the Detroit police crime lab, which was shut down in September after state police found gun evidence may have been misjudged.

Police have described Smothers, 28, as a hit man, and there are six murder cases pending against him, some involving more than one victim. He has not been charged in the four deaths tied to Sanford.

Smothers’ lawyer, Gabi Silver, acknowledges that Smothers apparently made incriminating statements but has declined to comment.

The Wayne County prosecutor’s office has declined to talk about Sanford’s bid to get out of prison.

Eight family members wearing “Free Davontae” shirts were told they could not wear them in the courtroom.

“It’s moving slow, but I think the judge is fair,” Sanford’s mother, Taminko Sanford, said outside court. “Where this case was last year _ I never thought this day would come.”

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