Prosecutors: Detroit hit man testimony is hearsay

AP News
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Posted: May 09, 2011 3:33 PM
Prosecutors: Detroit hit man testimony is hearsay

Prosecutors are urging a judge to stop an experienced defense lawyer from testifying about her conversations with a convicted Detroit hit man, information that could help clear a young man who pleaded guilty to murdering four people at a drug house in 2007.

In a court filing, the Wayne County prosecutor's office said Gabi Silver's testimony about what former client Vincent Smothers told her about the slayings would be hearsay and should not be allowed.

Davontae Sanford, now 18, was 14 years old when he confessed to shooting and kiling four people in a drug house on Runyon Street. He now says he confessed in order to please police, and he's seeking to get his guilty pleas thrown out.

Smothers, a self-described hit man convicted of eight other slayings, took the unusual step of waiving his attorney-client privilege in order to allow Silver to testify that he told her he was responsible for the Runyon Street killings and that Sanford didn't help him.

Smothers confessed to the attack after his 2008 arrest for a series of mostly drug-related murders in Detroit. Prosecutors never charged him for Runyon Street, but they acknowledge he probably had a role.

Judge Brian Sullivan will hear arguments Tuesday about whether to allow Silver's testimony. Prosecutors said there are exceptions in Michigan court rules to allow hearsay testimony but this case doesn't fit.

"The proposed statement must have circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness. That is not present here," wrote assistant prosecutor Thomas Chambers.

The prosecutor's office has noted that a woman who was inside the drug house said she recognized Sanford's voice.

Sanford's attorney, Kim McGinnis, said she's "desperate" to get Smothers to talk about Runyon Street, but he has declined to speak in court. Testimony from his former lawyer would be her best shot.


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