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Detroit man convicted of murder 25 years ago released from prison

Desmond Ricks and members of the Michigan Innocence Clinic pose outside the prison where Ricks had been held since 1992
Photo courtesy of Michigan Innocence Clinic

A man who was found guilty of shooting his friend outside a Detroit restaurant 25 years ago was released from prison today.

A Wayne County judge threw out Desmond Ricks’ murder conviction after it came to light that the conviction may have been based on faulty evidence produced by the Detroit crime lab. The lab was closed in 2008 after a state audit found widespread problems.

The Michigan Innocence Clinic filed a motion for relief from judgment last year. Dave Moran directs the clinic and says the state needs to go back and re-examine all of the cases from the Detroit crime lab going back decades. 

"Only when we actually get an independent investigation and go back and look at all these cases will we find out how many other Desmond Ricks are there sitting in prison right now because of bogus, fabricated forensic results from the Detroit police crime lab." 

Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller issued this statement in response to Ricks' release:

"In 1992 the police firearms expert and the defense firearms expert both testified at the trial and both agreed that the fired evidence came from the same gun. Many years later the defense expert for the first time said the bullets he examined could not have been from the morgue. This circumstance is something that has required serious review. We will be back in court on June 1 to put our position on the record regarding how we will proceed in this matter."

For his part, Desmond Ricks believes justice has been served and he says he's not bitter.

"I just want to be a citizen, a law-abiding citizen, work, pay taxes, and I'm grateful to have this second chance." Ricks has two daughters, the youngest of whom was just five days old when Ricks was sent to prison.  He says he called them soon after he found out about his release. 

"My one daughter, she was vacuuming her car out, so I told her to sit down, I had some news to tell her," explains Ricks. "She was screaming and hollering, you know, just happy, joyful." His other daughter was driving at the time, so he told her to pull over and then gave her the news. He says she was "ecstatic, just happy that this is finally over and I can come home."

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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