Wayne County prosecutor dismisses murder charges against man who spent 45 years in prison

Phillips convicted of killing Gregory Harris in 1971

DETROIT – For the first time in 45 years, Richard Phillips is a free man. In October 1972, he was convicted of murdering Gregory Harris in 1971 and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

A judge dismissed those charges Wednesday based on new evidence that proved his innocence.

“I would rather die in prison than to admit to something that I didn’t do,” Phillips said.

In October 1972, a jury convicted Phillips and sentenced him to life in prison for Harris' murder; and during the trial, a witness told the court Phillips helped set up the murder.

But in August 2010, Phillips' co-defendant, Richard Palombo, admitted he was the real killer. In 2017, Phillips was released on bond, and Wednesday, a judge announced Phillips was a free man.

Prosecutor Kym Worthy said justice has been served.

“There’s nothing that I can say to bring back 40 years of his life," Worthy said. "The system failed him, there’s no question about it, in this case. This is a true exoneration.”

Phillips said he always knew he would be free one day, and that kept him motivated. But he shocked everyone when he said he isn't angry.

“There is no animosity," Phillips said. "In order to have animosity in your heart, the animosity has to be there before you have problems. So if you have a rotten heart in the beginning, you have a rotten heart afterwards. My heart has never been rotten.”

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