DNA Clears Man Who Spent 12 Years in Prison

DALLAS (CN) - A Texas man falsely convicted of rape will be exonerated Friday due to prosecutors conducting DNA testing even though the man did not publicly proclaim his innocence or ask for the DNA testing himself, the Dallas County district attorney said.
     It's the first exoneration of this kind in the country, Dallas County D.A. Crag Watkins said Thursday, and the 34th exoneration by Watkins' Conviction Integrity Unit.
     Michael Phillips, 57, of Dallas, served 12 years in state prison after pleading guilty in 1990 to raping a 16-year-old girl at a Dallas motel. Phillips claimed his attorney told him not to risk going to trial. The victim picked Phillips out of a photo lineup.
     Phillips was released from prison in 2002 and is wheelchair-bound due to sickle-cell anemia. His innocence was discovered when Watkins' office reviewed untested rape kits from the year 1990 on that met certain criteria.
     "Mr. Phillips is very lucky that we tested rape kits from the year in which the heinous crime took place," Watkins said. "DNA tells the truth, so this was another case of eyewitness misidentification where one individual's life was wrongfully snatched and a violent criminal was allowed to go free. We apologize to Michael Phillips for a criminal justice system that failed him."
     Watkins said Phillips did not have a DNA profile on file to compare with semen in the rape kit because DNA was not regularly collected from suspects in 1990, as it is now. He said the semen in the kit was run through the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, which matched another resident at the motel.
     Phillips said Thursday he "never imagined" to live to see his name cleared.
     "Six of my siblings died from the same disease, so I thank God for sustaining me in prison," he said. "I always told everyone I was innocent and now people will finally believe me."