A Detroit man who spent 25 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit was given back his hard-fought freedom this week as prosecutors announced they would not seek to try the case a second time.
Desmond Ricks was sentenced to at least 32 years in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of Gerry Bennett, a friend who was shot outside a restaurant.
Police at the time said a gun belonging to Ricks’ mother was the murder weapon, but an analysis of two bullets from the victim showed they did not match the gun offered at Ricks’ trial in 1992, The Associated Press reported.
The case was reopened in 2016 after photos of the two bullets taken from Bennett were found not to match the bullets examined by a gun expert before the trial.
Ricks accused the police of framing him with the false evidence, a claim backed up by David Moran, director of the Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan, who reportedly called police conduct in the case “criminal.”
“What [Ricks] was saying seemed to be outlandish: The Detroit police crime lab would not only make mistakes but switch bullets. It wasn’t outlandish — it was true,” Moran told reporters. “This outlandish conduct cost Desmond Ricks 25 years.”
No retired officers can be pursued in connection to the mix-up because too many years have passed, according to The AP.
Now 51, Ricks sighed heavily and hugged and shook hands with his legal team — mostly comprised of lawyers and students from the Innocence Clinic — as he was told Thursday that the Wayne County prosecutor’s office would not have him face a second trial, The AP reported.
“I hope you enjoy your newfound freedom,” Judge Richard Skutt said at the two-minute long hearing.
The news was long overdue for Ricks, who said he was ready to get on with his life.
“I don’t have time to be angry or mad,” he told reporters. “I just want to live.”
Ricks will likely benefit from a new state law that awards the wrongly convicted $50,000 for each year spent in prison.
The Detroit police gun lab was shut down in 2008 after an audit found serious errors in many cases, which officials said likely led to wrongful convictions.
Moran said state police should re-examine more cases handled by the lab, noting: “If it happened once, it would be very surprising if there’s not a lot of other cases like it.”
Prosecutor Kym Worthy reportedly said she is seeking money in her budget to form a special unit that would address issues “similar to the ones presented in the Ricks case.”
She noted that looking at old convictions connected to gun-related evidence does not need to be done outside her office, according to The AP.