No charges against retired cop in cased of freed Detroit man

AP News
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Posted: Jul 12, 2016 7:49 PM

DETROIT (AP) — No charges will be filed against a retired Detroit police officer in an investigation that led to the release of a young man who was arrested at age 14 and served eight years in prison for four murders, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

State police believed there was evidence for a perjury charge against James Tolbert, who investigated the murders and rose to deputy chief in Detroit and also served as Flint's police chief. But prosecutor Kym Worthy said the case couldn't be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

In June, Davontae Sanford, 23, was released from prison after eight years, based on the findings of state police detectives who took another look at the fatal shootings of four people in a drug den in Detroit in 2007.

State police said they interviewed Tolbert and learned that he had drawn a sketch of the murder scene on Runyon Street, although the officer had testified in court that Sanford had drawn it.

Worthy asked a judge to throw out Sanford's convictions, saying the sketch was a "major building block" of evidence. But in a statement Tuesday, she said charging Tolbert was a different matter.

Worthy said state police didn't ask Tolbert to explain his inconsistencies during an interview or give him an opportunity to review any reports or his prior testimony.

"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," she said.

Reached by The Associated Press, Tolbert said he wanted to read the prosecutor's statement and declined further comment. A six-year statute of limitations for filing a charge expires this week.

Worthy said another problem was Sanford's refusal to testify against Tolbert. His attorneys said he would testify but only after the Runyon Street murder case against him was completely dismissed. That request by prosecutors still was pending Tuesday with Judge Brian Sullivan.

Sanford's lawyers have insisted he was innocent of the four murders but pleaded guilty to second-degree murder when he was 15 because of an ineffective trial attorney. In 2008, a few weeks after Sanford was sentenced, a hit man confessed to the same killings. Vincent Smothers hasn't been charged but is in prison for eight other slayings.

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