A man who spent 45 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit is now free – and he’s selling art he painted from his jail cell to get by.
Richard Phillips, 73, was cleared of a 1971 homicide and was released from jail in 2017 after an investigation by University of Michigan law students and the Wayne County prosecutor’s office proved his innocence.
Last year, he became the longest-serving inmate in America to be granted exoneration, The Associated Press reported.
According to a Michigan law, Phillips could be eligible for more than $2 million in compensation — $50,000 for every year he spent wrongfully imprisoned. However, the matter with the state is unsettled, and in the meantime, he says he needs cash.
Phillips says painting was his escape while facing a life sentence in a Michigan prison.
“I didn’t actually think I’d ever be free again. This art is what I did to stay sane,” the former auto worker told the Associated Pres.
On his move to survive by selling his art,he said
But I don’t have any money. I don’t have a choice. Without this, I’d have a cup on the corner begging for nickels and dimes. I’m too old to get a job,” he continued.
Phillips’ petition for compensation is currently being reviewed by Michigan’s attorney general, Dana Nessel.
According to a spokesperson, the decision is difficult, because Phillips has an unresolved disputed conviction in a different state.