News of DNA exoneration stuns ex-inmate who didn't request test

Ailing, wheelchair bound and living in a nursing home, Michael Phillips had long ago stopped trying to persuade others that he had been wrongfully convicted of rape.

So the 57-year-old was stunned and, initially, in a state of disbelief when two police officers visited him earlier this year and told him DNA testing had exonerated him in the Texas crime for which he had served 12 years, reports USA Today.

Although Phillips hadn’t requested the test, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit has been reviewing such cases. Phillips may be the first inmate in the country to be cleared by a DNA test without asking for it, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. The project is jointly administered by the University of Michigan Law School and Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.

Craig Watkins, the DA who set up the unit, said other prosecutors should consider similar reviews. “There may be an innocent person that is languishing in prison for something they didn’t do,” he told USA Today. “Don’t wait for somebody to knock on your door to tell you … ‘I didn’t do the crime.’ “

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