DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A Dallas man who served 12 years in prison for a rape conviction, will have the crime erased from record. It turns out he wasn’t guilty after all.
Michael Phillips, 57, will be the 34th person to be exonerated by the Dallas DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit. However, there is a twist to his story. Phillips did not ask to be exonerated. His exoneration will come thanks to luck of the draw.
Phillips was sentenced to prison in 1990, after he pleaded guilty to the rape of a 16-year-old girl. Phillips says his attorney advised him to plead guilty rather than go to trial, suggesting a jury would not believe a black man accused of raping a white girl, who had identified him in a photo lineup.
Phillips served his 12-year sentence and was released from prison in 2002. After his release, his failure to register as a sex offender put him back in jail for another six months.
Phillips’ conviction would have stood, had it not been for Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins efforts to test old rape kits, even in cases where the defendant does not request it. The Dallas crime lab has tested several sexual assault kits from 1990.
“Mr. Phillips is very lucky that we tested rape kits from the year in which the heinous crime took place,” said Watkins.
Test results confirmed the semen from the rape kit matched another man, Lee Marvin Banks. Banks also lived in the same hotel as Phillips and the 16-year-old victim.
Phillips, who is now confined to a wheelchair and suffers from sickle cell anemia, says he is ready for the truth to come out.
“I never imagined I would live to see my name cleared. Six of my sibling died from the same disease, so I thank God for sustaining me in prison. I always told everyone I was innocent and now people will finally believe me,” said Phillips.
Phillips will also be entitled to $960,000. The State of Texas awards exonerees $80,000 a year for each year of wrongful conviction.
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