People Magazine Investigates looks at the wrongful conviction of Michigan man Richard Phillips

By Chris Harris
January 17, 2020 09:18 AM

For more than 45 years, Richard Phillips languished behind the bars of a Michigan prison, tortured by the knowledge that he had absolutely nothing to do with the murder he was convicted of.

The former auto worker had long insisted he was innocent of the crime, but authorities and jurors did not believe him.

Eventually, after numerous denied appeals, Phillips would be vindicated.

In 2010, more than 30 years after he was sent to prison for life for fatally shooting Gregory Harris in Detroit, Phillips’ co-defendant, Richard Polombo, came clean, acknowledging someone else shot had Harris in the head.

Polombo identified the shooter as the prosecution’s star witness, Fred Mitchell, and suggested Mitchell had taken deliberate steps designed to frame Phillips. Phillips was ultimately freed in 2018 thanks to the investigative efforts of several University of Michigan law students working in conjunction with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

The investigation into Harris’ killing — and the circumstances that led to his conviction and exoneration — are the subject of Monday night’s episode of People Magazine Investigates, airing at 10 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery. (An exclusive clip is above.)

RELATED: Exonerated Michigan Man Imprisoned 45 Years for Murder He Didn’t Commit Will Get $1.5 Million

Despite his bleak situation, Phillips said he never lost hope, and did everything he could — including taking up painting — to keep his sanity.

Richard Phillips
Carlos Osorio/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“I had to keep fighting for my life no matter what,” Phillips, now 73, says on the show. “They convicted me on what Mitchell said I told him. Period.”

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But would the real killer ever be brought to justice?

RELATED: After Serving Over 40 Years For Murder He Didn’t Commit, Exonerated Michigan Man Selling His Prison Art

On Monday night, viewers who tune into the season four finale of People Magazine Investigates will find out, in an episode entitled Motor City Murder.

By the time he was released, Phillips would earn the unique distinction of serving more prison time than any other exonerated inmate in American history.

The state of Michigan ended up paying for the mistake, handing Phillips $1.5 million in compensation last year.

People Magazine Investigates: Motor City Murder airs Monday on Investigation Discovery (10 p.m. ET).

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