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Prosecutor Reveals How Police Lied To Convict A Detroit Teen Of Murder

A former Detroit cop fabricated a key piece of evidence — a crime scene drawing — and lied about it in court, the prosecutor says.

Posted on June 10, 2016, at 10:47 a.m. ET

Wayne County Prosecutor's Office

The drawing of the crime scene that Detroit police testified was drawn by Davontae Sanford.

A Detroit teen, who spent nine years in prison for a murder he didn't commit, had his conviction overturned after it was discovered that a former cop fabricated a key piece of evidence used against him.

The prosecutor's office who tried the case against Davontae Sanford revealed this week that a drawing of the crime scene that cops said was drawn by Sanford was actually created by a disgraced former police chief who investigated the 2007 murders.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said at a press conference Thursday that when Michigan State Police interviewed former deputy police chief James Tolbert during their reinvestigation of the case in 2015, Tolbert confessed that he drew the crime scene.

But at Sanford's trial in 2010, Tolbert testified that the drawing was Sanford's alone and another officer backed up his claim, also testifying that Sanford created the drawing.

Tolbert testified at the 2010 trial that Sanford created the drawing.

Wayne County Prosecutor's Office

In 2015, Tolbert changed his story and told the Michigan State Police that he actually drew the crime scene.

Wayne County Prosecutor's Office

Sanford was wrongfully convicted of killing four people inside a Runyon Ave. house and spent nine years in prison before being released this week. Worthy said that the drawing was crucial in convicting Sanford of the killings.

"The signed sketch was a key piece of evidence because it demonstrated knowledge of a crime scene," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said. "Mr. Sanford being able to draw the sketch would demonstrate that all of the information came directly from his recollection or from his participation in the crime."

Worthy said that the Michigan State Police have submitted a warrant against Tolbert which is currently being reviewed.

Flint Police / Via

James Tolbert as a Flint police chief

Davontae Sanford was reunited with his mother, Taminko Sanford-Tilmon, this week. Sanford spent nine years in jail after being wrongfully convicted of four murders in Detroit. Two weeks after he was sentenced in 2008, a professional hit man confessed to the crimes.

Davontae Sanford and mother, Taminko Sanford-Tilmon

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.