71-Year-Old Released after Spending 45 Years in Prison for Crime He Didn't Commit


Richard Phillips spent 45 years in prison convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. According to WJBK, Phillips stated, “My heart has never been rotten.”

His comment might strike you as odd considering his supposed crimes. However, his heart has been revealed as one full of forgiveness beyond what many would be feeling if they were in Phillips’ shoes.

Those 45 years he spent in prison were for a crime he did not commit.

In June 1971, a man by the name of Gregory Harris was murdered. During the 1972 trial, a witness lied, claiming Phillips, then 27, was involved in the murder.

Phillips’ sentencing of life in prison without the possibility of parole was based on a false testimony. But he never wavered in his insistence that he was innocent.

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In 2010, hope for the innocent man wrongfully put behind bars finally appeared. The other man also convicted of the murder, Richard Polombo, admitted to the state parole board that not only was Phillips uninvolved in the crime, but he did not even know Phillips.

The Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan law school worked for four years on the case starting in 2014. Before the new trial date that they were able to get for him, prosecutors offered a plea deal.

“I would rather die in prison than admit to something I didn’t do,” Phillips told reporters in the video posted by WWJ’s City Beat Reporter Vickie Thomas.

Finally, all charges were dismissed on March 28, 2018, making Phillips, now 71, a free man at last.

A reporter asked Phillips, “What are your plans moving forward?” He humorously answered that he planned to “stay out of prison.” He also hopes to be reunited with his children who were ages 2 and 4 in 1972.

In all seriousness, Phillips has found challenges in adjusting to life outside of prison as an exonerated person. The resources and financial assistance seemed to be lacking for Phillips thus far, but the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act means he will likely be eligible to receive over $2 million.

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No amount of compensation seems comparable to the 45 years spent as an innocent man in prison. However, Phillips has shared that he is shockingly not bitter.

He told CNN, “I was upset at first, but mistakes happen in this world. No life is perfect.”

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Carolyn Fultz is a former contributor for Liftable Media. She holds a B.A. in Communication from Hope College.
Carolyn Fultz is a former contributor for Liftable Media. She holds a B.A. in Communication from Hope College. Carolyn's writing has been featured in both online and print media, including Just Between Us magazine. She resides in Phoenix with her husband and children.
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