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Civil lawsuit seeks $125 million for Detroit man wrongfully convicted of murder

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Desmond Ricks (center) with his family at his lawyer's office in Farmington Hills Thursday.

Akilah Cobb was seven years old when they arrested her dad, Desmond Ricks, in 1992. Her sister was only five days old.

Cobb says she was ashamed and angry when she found out why her dad was gone. Her mom and grandma always told her Ricks was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But she didn’t always believe it.

“I felt like whatever was going on, whatever I heard – (he) did it. That put a huge effect on our relationship. I didn’t speak to my father for about five or six years straight in jail,” Cobb said.

He couldn’t be there when her mom died or when her children were born. She says they’ll never get that stolen time back.

“Never. Ever. Ever. I needed my father when it was the bad times, not only the good times. Bad times,” Cobb said, holding back tears, “They can’t; no amount of money, nothing, can ever replace that. Ever.”

Cobb’s father is suing Detroit and two of the city’s retired police officersafter serving 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Michigan State Police determined the evidence linking Desmond Ricks to the murder of his friend was faulty.

The only thing tying Ricks to the case was a gun police recovered from his mother’s home.

An MSP evidence technician named David Townshend reviewed the bullets provided by Detroit Police in 1992. He says he remembers questioning the officer, saying the bullets provided seemed “too pristine” to have been extracted from a body. Officer Donald Stawiasz told him they were those recovered from the autopsy.

MSP recently took a second look at the bullets recovered from the murder victim’s body. They do not match Ricks’ mom’s gun.

Desmond was released in May, after serving a quarter-century behind bars.

“It’s hard to keep hope when you lose your mother and all your money and all your resources and your assets, everything, it just it disappears. I did not want to die in there and I was going to do everything I could to get myself into the position that I’m in right now,” Ricks said. He was desperate to be with his family again he said.

Desmond Ricks’ attorney says it is too late to seek criminal charges against the retired Detroit police officers for fabricating evidence and falsifying police reports so they hope to restore some justice in civil court.

They’re asking a federal judge to award Ricks and his daughters $125 million.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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