Michigan man cleared after 45 years in prison

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit-area man whose murder conviction was thrown out after he spent 45 years in prison was exonerated today and won't face a second trial.

Richard Phillips, 71, was upbeat, saying the criminal justice system "works – it just didn't 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 said a new investigation by her office backed his claim that he had no role in a 1971 fatal shooting.

She said a key witness lied at his 1972 trial.

"There's nothing I can say to bring back 40 years of his life," Worthy said. "The system failed him. This is a true exoneration."

The case was reopened at the urging of the Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan law school after a co-defendant at the 1972 trial told the state parole board Phillips wasn't involved in the slaying of Gregory Harris.

Phillips had been free on bond since December. He likely will be eligible for more than $2 million under Michigan's wrongful-conviction law.

No one in the U.S. has served more years in prison before being exonerated 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 decades in prison.

One of his goals: A reunion with two children who were ages 2 and 4 when he went to prison in 1972. Despite publicity about his case, Phillips said he hasn't heard from them and doesn't know their whereabouts.

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