Michigan Man Who Spent 45 Years in Prison for Murder He Didn’t Commit is Awarded $1.5 Million

Richard Phillips stands next to some of his artwork during an interview at the Community Art Gallery in Ferndale, Mich. Phillips was exonerated of murder in 2018 after 45 years in prison. Lawyers say he should be entitled to more than $2 million under Michigan’s wrongful conviction law, but the state so far is resisting. So Phillips, 73, is selling some of his 400-plus watercolors that he painted in prison.
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An exonerated Michigan man who spent 45 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit has been awarded $1.5 million in compensation.

The compensation, for 73-year-old Richard Phillips, was announced Friday by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel as part of $2.3 million total awarded to three wrongfully convicted men.

Before they receive the money, state legislators must first approve the payout.

Phillips was freed in 2017, thanks to the investigative efforts of several University of Michigan law students working in conjunction with the Wayne County prosecutor’s office.

Phillips, who received a life sentence after his murder conviction in 1971, has served more prison time than any other exonerated inmate in American history.

According to state law, Phillips was entitled to more than $2 million in compensation — $50,000 for every year he spent wrongfully imprisoned.

As Phillips sat in his cell, he used art as an escape.

The former auto worker was able to purchase painting supplies with the money he made selling handmade cards to his fellow inmates. When his cellmate would leave each morning, he would pull out his supplies, and paint inspirational scenes based on photographs he’d find in newspapers.

Earlier this year, he decided to sell some of that art to make ends meet.

While incarcerated, Phillips created 400 watercolor paintings, and mailed them to a friend on the outside for safe keeping.

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SOURCE: PEOPLE, Chris Harris