Detroit reaches $7.5M settlement with man wrongfully incarcerated

Francis Akhalbey July 15, 2022
Desmond Ricks, 56, spent over 20 years in prison for a murder he claims he did not commit -- Photo Credit: David Moran/Innocence Clinic At University of Michigan via Associated Press

The city of Detroit has reached a $7.5 million settlement with a Black man who spent over 20 years in prison for a murder he claims he did not commit. According to The Associated Press, Desmond Ricks alleged police falsely implicated him in the 1992 murder by switching bullets.

University of Michigan law students as well as gun experts ultimately secured Ricks’ release from prison in 2017. The settlement was approved by the City Council on Tuesday.

“I’m not greedy. I’m thankful,” the 56-year-old Black man said. “It’s a blessing to be alive with my children and grandchildren. It was a blessing to not lose my life in there [prison].”

Ricks was sentenced to prison for the shooting death of his friend in 1992. The fatal incident happened outside a restaurant. In the wake of the shooting, police claimed the murder weapon was a confiscated gun that Ricks’ mother owned.

In 2016, however, the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan law school filed an appeal for the case to be reopened. Images that were presented determined that two bullets that were retrieved from the deceased victim did not match the bullets a defense expert initially scrutinized. That examination was done prior to Ricks’ trial some decades ago.

Fortunately, Detroit police still had the bullets in its storage. And subsequent examinations determined the bullets weren’t the same as the .38-caliber gun that investigators claimed was the murder weapon. 

And though a judge ultimately gave the green light for a new trial, prosecutors opted to drop the charges. “It was layer upon layer upon layer of police misconduct. It was a truly egregious case,” David Moran, who is the director of the Innocence Clinic, said.

During the depositions that took place in the wake of the lawsuit, the city’s gun expert also admitted that the initial bullet analysis results from the police lab were wrong, The Associated Press reported.

“It’s one of two things. It was a horrible mistake or it was deliberate — I don’t know,” Jay Jarvis, a former Georgia State Crime Laboratory employee, said.

The state of Michigan also paid Ricks $1 million for his wrongful conviction. But he could possibly pay back the money after reaching the settlement with Detroit

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