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Why were no perjury charges brought against Detroit police official in Sanford case?

Davontae Sanford was wrongfully convicted of four murders at age 14. He was released from prison last month after spending nine years behind bars.
Kate Wells
/
Michigan Radio
Davontae Sanford was wrongfully convicted of four murders at age 14. He was released from prison last month after spending nine years behind bars.

Our conversation with Peter Henning

The case goes back to a grisly quadruple homicide in Detroit in 2007.

Police interrogated 14-year-old Davontae Sanford, who says he was coerced into giving a false confession.

Former Detroit police commander James Tolbert was one of the cops who questioned Sanford. He testified in court that Sanford was able to draw a crime scene sketch for police of where the murders took place.

But later, Tolbert admitted to police that he actually drew most of the sketch.

Still, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced late Tuesday there's insufficient evidence to charge Tolbert with perjury. Her office says even if Tolbert changed his statements about evidence, it’s really hard to actually prove perjury, because you have to prove that somebody intentionally lied under oath.

Former criminal prosecutor and Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning joined us today to take a look at the legal rationale behind not pursuing perjury charges against Tolbert. 

GUEST

Peter Henning is a professor of law at Wayne State University.

Copyright 2021 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Read more about the Stateside.
Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist and co-host of the Michigan Radio and NPR podcast Believed. The series was widely ranked among the best of the year, drawing millions of downloads and numerous awards. She and co-host Lindsey Smith received the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Judges described their work as "a haunting and multifaceted account of U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s belated arrest and an intimate look at how an army of women – a detective, a prosecutor and survivors – brought down the serial sex offender."