Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Friday afternoon that the state will award a total of $2.3 million to three men who spent time in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.
The three payments, which will be made through Michigan’s Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act, are based on a rate of $50,000 for each year plaintiffs spent in prison. The largest award, $1.5 million, will go to Richard Phillips, whose 1972 murder conviction was overturned by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s Conviction Integrity Unit.
“Reentering society is profoundly difficult for wrongfully convicted individuals and we have an obligation to provide compassionate compensation to these men for the harm they suffered,” Nessel said in a statement. “I’m proud our office was able to play a part in ensuring justice was served.”
Regarding Phillips’ case, Worthy said in a statement that “while this compensation will not bring back the 45 years that he unjustly served in prison, it is my sincere hope that it will bring a well-deserved and fulfilling quality of life to him.”
Phillips appeared in front of the Michigan House of Representatives in March when it voted to designate $10 million to the state’s wrongful imprisonment fund.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used her first line-item veto last week to nullify that funding, which was included in a bill that improved the wrongful imprisonment fund’s transparency. She emphasized, however, and her budget director, Chris Kolb, reiterated to reporters today, that she supported adding the amount to the fund, but believed it should be done through the appropriations process.
Nessel spokesperson Kelly Rossman-McKinney told the Advance Friday that the fund currently has just over $320,000 in it, and that the “Legislature will have to appropriate” in order to pay out Friday’s awards.