Davontae Sanford gets to go home now.
After nine years trapped in the Michigan prison system after a false conviction, the 23-year-old gets to go home now.
‘It’s about time. It’s too bad nobody listened years ago… so this kid wouldn’t have to spend so much time in prison for a crime he didn’t do.’
“Until Tuesday, prosecutors had steadfastly insisted they’d convicted the right person for the killings on Runyon on Detroit’s east side, and they rejected any notion Sanford was innocent.”
The Detroit Free News has the full story.
Sometimes the distance between being right and doing right costs people years of their lives. State prosecutors were intent on building their case from implication through coerced confession to conviction. They were invested in “being right,” or more precisely, being seen to be right. They didn’t welcome evidence contrary to their case, even when that evidence was emphatic and their own evidence was thin.
Had the state been less invested in being right and more invested in doing right, Sanford could have spent his 15th year at home.
There’s a psychological bias that David McRaney of the You’re Not So Smart blog calls the Sunk Cost Fallacy. The idea: “Your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it.”
We’re all prone to this bias. It’s one of the reasons I’m still a Seventh-day Adventist and why it took me three moves and over 15 years to transfer my congregational membership out of my childhood church. Sunk costs were among the things that helped me to stay in my grad program during a particularly difficult period. This is a bias that motivates us to hang in there, and when what we’re hanging on to is worth something—perhaps an education, perhaps a marriage, perhaps a career path—that’s wonderful.
But what about when we’re wrong? We don’t like being wrong, and hanging in there is a fantastic way to avoid feeling like we’re wrong.
Yet not liking how it feels to be wrong doesn’t stop us from being wrong. Resistance to correction doesn’t guarantee accuracy.
And sometimes, the stakes are greater than our egos or resolved case ratios. Sometimes the stakes are a life, and there’s no real way to compensate Davontae Sanford for all he’s lost because people with power bet his last decade against their fear of being wrong.