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Exonerated Detroit Man Can Sue City, Officers

— April 16, 2020

Desmond Ricks, wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years can sue the city of Detroit and police officers involved in his case.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman, appointed by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, has approved a trial for financial settlement in a lawsuit brought by exonerated Detroit man Desmond Ricks who spent 25 years in prison before it was determined he had been wrongfully accused of the murder of friend, Gerry Bennett.  Ricks was able to prove a gun seized as evidence from his mother could not have been the weapon used in the crime.  Borman’s conviction, which was put in place in 1992, was overturned in 2017.  And, the crime lab that had collected the evidence was closed in 2008 due to misconduct.

When Ricks was exonerated, with the help of the University of Michigan’s Innocent Project, Judge Richard Skutt, appointed by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, declared in court, “I hope you enjoy your newfound freedom.”

Experts agreed that bullets removed from the victim couldn’t have been fired from the handgun prosecutors had contented Ricks used in the shooting.  Ballistics expert David Townshend said the bullets discovered in police storage weren’t the ones he examined when he was originally asked to examine.  “A 1992 report from the Detroit gun lab has not simply been impugned,” Borman said. “But rather has been indisputably shown to be wrong.”

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

At the time of the trial, Mary Ricks testified her son did not have access to her gun on the day of the crime.  She told the jury she slept with the gun under her pillow for protection and stated, “Nobody on the planet Earth ever knew where my gun was in the 10 or 12 years I have had it.”

Mark Ricks also testified that when the police came to arrest her son, they asked if she kept a gun in the house.  She led the officers to her bedroom and pulled out the gun.  She said that “one of the officers commented that the gun had not been fired recently, but another officer said to take it anyway.”

Borman said retired police sued by Desmond Ricks will not have immunity in the new case.  Ricks is seeking $125 million from the city of Detroit and the officers.  The state has already awarded Ricks over $1 million under Michigan’s Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act, which state Governor Rick Snyder signed in 2016 and was put into effect in 2017.  The law compensates exonerated prisoners with $50,000 for each year they spent behind bars.  It states, “Action for compensation under this act must be commenced within 3 years after entry of a verdict, order, or judgment as the result of an event.”  At the time, Ricks argued he deserves more money, but this was denied in appeals court.

“A jury can determine whether police intentionally or, at least, recklessly falsified or fabricated the conclusion in their report,” Borman said.

City attorney, Jerry Ashford, previously denied during oral arguments that there was a “grand conspiracy” to indict Ricks after intentionally firing bullets from his mother’s gun and presenting them as evidence.  “At worse, it’s a mistake in judgment,” Ashford said. “There’s no malice here.”

Ricks said he “hopes the city now negotiates a settlement,” adding, “There are no more games to be played.  Otherwise I’ll let a jury decide.”


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