DETROIT – A Detroit-area man whose murder conviction was thrown out after he spent 45 years in prison, was fired Wednesday and will not face a second trial.
Richard Phillips, 71, was cheerful, and says that the criminal justice system “works, it just does not work fast enough.”
A judge granted a request to permanently drop the case against Phillips, whose conviction was erased last year. Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy, says a new study of its back-office his claim that he has no role in 1971 in a fatal shooting.
She said that an important witness lied at his 1972 trial.
“There is nothing I can say to bring back 40 years of his life,” Worthy said. “The system was not in him. This is a true acquittal.”
The case was reopened at the urging of the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan law school, after a co-defendant in the ’72 trial, told the state parole board that Phillips was not involved in the death of Gregory Harris.
Phillips was free on bond since December. He will probably be eligible for more than $2 million in Michigan’s wrongful conviction law.
No one in the US for more years in prison before he is fired than Phillips, said David Moran, director of the Innocence Clinic.
“I’ve never carried bitterness around, so I’m not a bitter man,” Phillips told reporters when asked about his years in prison.
One of his goals: A reunion with two children, ages 2 and 4 when he went to prison in 1972. Despite the publicity about his case, Phillips said he hasn’t heard of them and don’t know where they are.
“You have seen the worst and the best of the criminal justice system,” Says Kevin Cox told Phillips.
Phillips has settled in a suburb of Detroit, and visits a church where he shares his story with others.
“Freedom really belongs to him again,” Moran said.
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