Wrongfully Convicted Man to Get $1.5M After Nearly 46 Years in Jail

A 73-year-old artist earns his freedom and a $1.5 million payout after serving close to 46 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. His paintings which he produced while incarcerated are now reportedly selling for thousands of dollars. 

After serving more than 45 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, a 73-year-old man will be awarded $1.5 million in compensation. This was the announcement made by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in a statement on Friday. 

Phillips, who was serving a life sentence, is entitled to $50,000 for every year he served out of that wrongful conviction. As an exonerated inmate, he holds the record of spending the longest time in prison.

RECORD-BREAKING PRISON TIME FOR WRONGFUL CONVICTION

“I didn’t think I’d ever be free again,” Richard Phillips said back in January in reference to his exoneration in 2017. With the help of several law students from the University of Michigan, he was proven innocent after being convicted for murder in 1971.

Phillips, who was serving a life sentence, is entitled to $50,000 for every year he served out of that wrongful conviction. As an exonerated inmate, he holds the record of spending the longest time in prison.

Phillips produced over 400 watercolor paintings during his incarceration which are now reportedly selling for thousands of dollars.

According to Nessel, the payout is expected to “foster a healing process” and is a recognition on the government’s part that “no system is perfect.”

A PHENOMENAL ARTIST 

Phillips is described by his attorney, Gabi Silver as one of the “warmest, kindest, most considerate” persons she’s ever met. 

While in prison, he used his time to paint inspirational scenes lifted from newspapers. He would sell his handmade cards to inmates to be able to earn money to buy more art supplies.

Phillips produced over 400 watercolor paintings during his incarceration which are now reportedly selling for thousands of dollars. 50 of them were displayed at Ferndale’s Level One gallery a few months back. 

With the income he’ll be getting from his paintings and his government compensation, Phillips may start a life for himself with the rest of the years he has left.  

“...a total of 166 wrongly convicted people whose convictions date as far back as 1964 were declared innocent in 2016.”

A GROWING POPULATION OF WRONGLY CONVICTED 

There were two other men who were exonerated along with Phillips who will be receiving compensation.  Neal Redick spent 15 years in prison for charges of sexual assault which his accuser later recanted. Reserve police officer Raymond McCann was convicted for perjury but proven not guilty with the help of new evidence from surveillance footage. Both of them will be taking a share from the remainder of the $2.5 million total government payout which includes Phillips’ compensation.

These three men are just part of a large number of people who’ve been wrongfully convicted. According to an article by Emily Barone in Time Magazine, “a total of 166 wrongly convicted people whose convictions date as far back as 1964 were declared innocent in 2016.” These numbers were lifted from a report by the National Registry of Exonerations. On average, there are three exonerations per week, doubling the rate in 2011. 

We have reported several of these wrongful convictions in the recent past including John Bunn, who was released after serving 17 years in prison for murder. He was wrongly accused of killing a correction officer when he was only 14. 

Hassan Bennett took it upon himself to study law and represent himself when he appealed his conviction for a murder he didn’t commit. Bennett was acquitted after spending 13 years in prison and appearing in 4 trials. 

There are many others like these men whose lives were disrupted by these mistakes and it is our hope that they find comfort in their freedom amid the regret of losing a huge part of their lives to prison

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