57ºF

Metro Detroit man claiming innocence in fatal shooting released after 45 years in prison

Richard Phillips convicted of killing Gregory Harris in 1971

DETROIT – A Metro Detroit man who was convicted in a fatal shooting was released Thursday from a Metro Detroit prison after 45 years.

Richard Phillips, 71, was sent to prison for the 1971 murder of Gregory Harris, but has maintained his innocence. Phillips will now be released while prosecutors appeal the decision.

A judge said Phillips can be released with an electronic tether.

“Miracles do happen,” he said.

Phillips and a co-defendant were convicted of first degree murder and conspiracy in 1972. The case was based on testimony of the victim’s brother-in-law. Phillips was sentenced to concurrent terms of life in prison.

“I was resigned to the fact that thought I was going to die in prison,” Phillips said.

In 2010, the co-defendant admitted he killed the victim with someone else and didn’t even know Phillips at the time.

The University of Michigan Law School’s Michigan Innocence Clinic began working on the case in 2014.

“We were tipped off to the fact that Mr. Phillips’ co-defendant admitted he didn’t even know him at the time,” David Moran, director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, said. “When we met Mr. Phillips and the co-defendant we knew this was the case for us.”

In August of this year, Phillips’ conviction was thrown out and he was granted a new trial, which will take place in February 2018.

Phillips said he’s grateful for those who helped him and does not harbor any animosity.

“This is going to be a very merry Christmas,” he said. “It almost gets me choked up.”