Man Who Spent 45 Years in Prison for a Wrongful Conviction Will Receive $1.5 Million

A man from Michigan who spent 45 years in prison before he was exonerated of murder in March 2018 will receive $1.5 million from the state. The Michigan Attorney General’s office said in a statement on Friday, May 17, that Richard Phillips, 73, will receive $1.5 million from the state. Phillips was exonerated of murder in 2018 and has become the longest-serving US incarcerated person to be cleared, CNN reported.

“Conceding that no system is perfect, the government’s public recognition and overturning of the convictions of these men helps to foster a healing process and assures Michiganders that the government — regardless of fault — will take ownership of its errors,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “Reentering society is profoundly difficult for wrongfully convicted individuals and we have an obligation to provide compassionate compensation to these men for the harm they suffered. I’m proud our office was able to play a part in ensuring justice was served.”

Phillips was convicted of fatally shooting a man named Gregory Harris in 1972, according to CNN. Harris’s brother-in-law told investigators at the time that he had previously met with Phillips at a bar to discuss the murder. In 2010, a man named Richard Polombo came forward and admitted that he had killed Harris, the news station reported. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy was given the case to review by the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic. Phillip’s was given a new trial in late 2017 and was exonerated in March 2018, according to CNN. Worthy said Phillip’s life prison sentence “was based almost entirely on the false testimony of the main witness in the case.”

“This is great news, and was absolutely the right thing to do," Worthy said in the statement. "I remain thankful that in 2018 we were able to bring some justice to Mr. Phillips. While this compensation will not bring back the 45 years that he unjustly served in prison, it is my sincere hope that it will bring a well-deserved and fulfilling quality of life to him.”

During his time in prison, Phillips told CBS News that he painted to keep himself busy. “It was something to do, occupy my mind," Phillips told the news station. "I could get off into one of my paintings and just be in there for hours."

On his website, it states that Phillips created watercolor art in prison and began painting custom greeting cards for other incarcerated people. With the money he made, he used it to buy more art supplies. During his time in prison, he always knew he was innocent. “His convictions were strong and he never wavered; he was an innocent man. In fact, Richard told his attorney, ‘I’d rather die in prison, than admit to a murder I did NOT do,’” his website read.

Phillips’ paintings are now selling for over $1,000, according to CBS News. Phillips’ attorney, Gabi Silver, told CNN her client hopes to buy a small house and to get a German Shepard puppy with the new money coming in.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.