Center on Wrongful Convictions
JUSTICE IS LONG OVERDUE FOR DAVONTAE SANFORD
On April 15, 2015, attorneys from our Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, Megan Crane, Steve Drizin, and Laura Nirider, along with student attorney Lauren Howard, filed a motion for relief from judgment in Michigan state court on behalf of Davontae Sanford. At an April 15th press conference, Megan Crane spoke out about the injustices Davontae has endured.
In 2007, 15-year-old developmentally disabled Davontae was convicted of a quadruple murder in Detroit and sentenced to 37 to 90 years in prison. The true perpetrator, an admitted professional hit man named Vincent Smothers, has confessed over the past seven years to Detroit police, state prosecutors, and a state psychologist, but his efforts to help Davontae have been repeatedly blocked by corruption and incompetence. Until now, the court has never heard from Smothers. His detailed affidavit was included in the CWCY filing. According to Smothers, he hopes “to have the opportunity to testify in court to provide details and drawings of the crime scene that could only be known by the person who committed the crime: me.” More...
OUR TWO PEORIA CASES IN THE NEWS
Christopher Coleman awarded a certificate of innocence
On March 5, 2015, our longtime client Christopher Coleman was officially declared innocent by the Circuit Court of Peoria County. We are grateful to Ron Safer and Tal Chaiken of Schiff Hardin LLP, our pro bono co-counsel, who led the legal team at the contested proceeding.
Christopher Coleman spent 19 years in prison for home invasion and related crimes that he did not commit; his convictions were reversed by the Illinois Supreme Court in October 2012.
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Johnnie Lee Savory presents his case for innocence
In 1977, at the age of 14, Johnnie Lee Savory was arrested for a double murder in Peoria. He would spend the next 30 years in prison until he was paroled in 2007 with assistance from the Center on Wrongful Convictions.
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PARDONS AND COMMUTATIONS
In his final days in office, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn issued pardons and commutations to the following four Center on Wrongful Convictions clients:
Anthony Dansberry, a developmentally disabled man who had been in prison since 1992, received a sentence commutation on January 12, 2015.
Johnnie Lee Savory, who served 30 years in prison for a double murder after his conviction as a teenager, received a pardon and expungement on January 12, 2015.
Alan Beaman, who served 13 years for a murder he did not commit that occurred while he was a college student, received a pardon based on innocence on January 9, 2015.
Robert Taylor, previously exonerated of a rape and murder for which he was convicted as a teenager, was pardoned for jumping bail in relation to that case on November 26, 2014.
In Memoriam: Our Beloved Jane Raley
It is with the greatest sadness that we announce the passing of Co-Director Jane Raley, a member of our legal staff since 2000 and truly the heart of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. She died peacefully at home on Christmas morning, surrounded by her loving family.
The cause of criminal justice has lost one of our greatest and most compassionate warriors. Jane was an incredible lawyer, a tenacious advocate for her clients, a revered mentor of law students and young lawyers, and an exceptionally loving and caring person. All who knew her will miss her beyond measure. Many innocent men and women are free from their convictions due to Jane’s work, and many young lawyers are out doing good in the world—and understand the good that attorneys can accomplish—due to Jane’s magnificent example during her 14 years as a law professor at Northwestern University School of Law.
A sampling of online tributes to Jane:
- Chicago Tribune obituary
- Chicago Daily Law Bulletin obituary
- NPR "All Things Considered" radio story
- Josh Tepfer's blog post
- Jeanne Bishop's Huffington Post reflection
- Daily Northwestern story
There will be a memorial service for Jane at 2 p.m. on January 3 at the North Shore Unitarian Church, 2100 Half Day Road, in Deerfield, Illinois. All are welcome.
Rest in peace, our dear Jane.
(In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in her memory to the Jane Raley Memorial Fund at Northwestern University School of Law. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)