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Desmond Ricks, a Black man from Detroit, spent 25 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Ricks, 56, was released from prison in 2017 after it was discovered that the bullets used to convict him weren’t the ones examined prior to trial.
“It’s a blessing to be alive with my children and grandchildren. It was a blessing to not lose my life in there,” Ricks said of prison.
Ricks was convicted of fatally shooting a friend outside a restaurant in 1992. Ricks, an ex-convict at the time, was with Gerry Bennett (victim) at the time but said he ran away, dodging gunfire. A few days later police seized a gun that belonged to Ricks’ mother and said it was the murder weapon.
In 2016, the Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan Law School asked a judge to reopen the case. Photos of two bullets taken from Bennett did not resemble the bullets that were examined by a defense expert before trial decades earlier. The actual bullets used were still in the Detroit police’s storage. Examinations showed they did not match the .38-caliber gun identified as the weapon.
Detroit man to be paid $7.5 million for wrongful conviction
In the past, Ricks had alleged that he was framed by police after they switched bullets to pin a murder on him. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had nothing to do with this, they switched the bullets on me,” Ricks told the Associated Press in 2017.
Something important of note is that in 2008, the Detroit police lab was shut down after an audit revealed sloppy work, including the botched analysis of gun evidence.“Detroit police were infamous at taking unconstitutional shortcuts in order to try to close murder cases,” Innocence Clinic director David Moran said.
A judge granted Ricks a new trial, but prosecutors in response dropped charges. “It was layer upon layer upon layer of police misconduct. It was a truly egregious case,” said David Moran, director of the Innocence Clinic.
During depositions in the lawsuit, Jay Jarvis, Detroit’s crime expert and 32-year veteran at the Georgia State Crime Laboratory, acknowledged that the bullet analysis by the police lab was suspicious. “It’s one of two things. It was a horrible mistake or it was deliberate, I don’t know,” Jarvis said.
Before Detroit settled the lawsuit, Ricks had received more than $1 million from the state for his wrongful conviction, $50,000 for each year in custody. He’ll likely have to repay it now that the lawsuit with Detroit has been settled.