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Judge Drops Murder Charges Against Man Who Spent 45 Years in Jail


29 March, 2018

A man in the state of Michigan is free this week after being wrongly convicted of murder and spending 45 years in prison.

A judge has agreed to permanently drop the case against the man.

Richard Phillips is 71 years old. He said of his release that the criminal justice system "works – it just didn't work fast enough."

A lawyer for Michigan's Wayne County, Kym Worthy, said a new investigation by her office supported Phillips' claim that he had no role in the shooting death of Gregory Harris in 1971.

Richard Phillips, right, hugs Det. Patricia Little in a courtroom on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, in Detroit, Michigan. Phillips, a Michigan man whose murder conviction was thrown out after he spent 45 years in prison will not face a second trial. (AP Photo/Ed White)
Richard Phillips, right, hugs Det. Patricia Little in a courtroom on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, in Detroit, Michigan. Phillips, a Michigan man whose murder conviction was thrown out after he spent 45 years in prison will not face a second trial. (AP Photo/Ed White)

She said a key witness lied during the trial in 1972.

Worthy said, "There's nothing I can say to bring back 40 years of his life."

The case was re-opened at the urging of the Innocence Clinic, part of the University of Michigan's law school. It made the request after the co-defendant in the 1972 trial told the state's parole board in 2010 that Phillips was not involved in the crime.

The co-defendant also said the key witness who lied during the trial helped him kill Harris.

The Innocence Clinic began working with Phillips on his case in 2014. He had been freed on bond since December 2017 and was expected to get a new trial this year. But the judge's ruling this week means he does not need a second trial.

Judge Kevin Cox told Phillips, "You have seen the worst and best of the criminal justice system."

Phillips likely will receive more than $2 million as part of Michigan's wrongful conviction law.

David Moran is director of the Innocence Clinic. He said no one in the United States has ever served more time in prison before being freed than Phillips.

"His freedom truly belongs to him again," Moran said.

When asked about his years in prison, Phillips told reporters, "I've never carried bitterness around, so I'm not a bitter man."

As a free man, one of Phillips' goals is to reunite with his two children. They were just 2 and 4 years old when he went to prison in 1972. Phillips said he has not heard from them and does not know where they live.

Phillips has settled in an area just outside of Detroit. He attends a church where he shares his story with others.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

The Associated Press reported this story. Xiaotong Zhou adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

parolen. permission given to a prisoner to leave prison before the end of a sentence usually as a reward for behaving well

convictv. to prove that someone is guilty of a crime in a court of law

bitternessn. feeling or showing a lot of hatred or anger

bondn. the amount of money that someone promises to pay if a prisoner who is allowed to leave jail does not return later for a trial or to prison : an agreement to pay bail

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