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Bullet evidence clears Detroit man in jail since 1992 for murder

A Detroit man has walked free from prison after serving 25 years for murder after new tests on bullets supported his claim that police framed him with bogus evidence.

Desmond Ricks, now 51, was released from prison in western Michigan after a judge threw out his 1992 murder conviction.

The Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan law school had asked Judge Richard Skutt to reopen the case after prosecutors in 2015 turned over photos of two bullets removed from murder victim Gerry Bennett.

The bullets were in poor shape and did not resemble the pristine bullets that were presented as evidence by Detroit police in 1992.

Police at that time said a gun belonging to Mr Ricks' mother was the murder weapon, but new tests have ruled out any connection, Innocence Clinic director David Moran said.

One of the bullets does not match the gun, and the other bullet was too mutilated for a thorough analysis, he said.

Mr Moran said: "Ricks was a great advocate for his own cause.

"What he 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.

"This outlandish conduct cost Desmond Ricks 25 years."

The crime lab was shut down after a 2008 audit revealed sloppy work, including the botched analysis of gun evidence.

The Wayne County prosecutor's office agreed that Mr Ricks' second-degree murder conviction should be set aside. It is possible that he could face a second trial, but that seems unlikely.

Spokeswoman Maria Miller said the next move will be discussed in court on June 1.

The law school has exonerated 10 people and freed four others since 2009 by exposing bad police work in Michigan, finding new witnesses and tapping specialists.

In 1992, Mr Ricks was with Mr Bennett when the latter was shot in the head outside a burger bar.

Mr Ricks said he ran away, dodging gunfire. But a few days later, police pinned the slaying on him and seized his mother's gun.

Earlier this year, he said: "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had nothing to do with this.

"They switched the bullets on me."

Mr Ricks had a key ally in his bid to reopen the case: an independent firearms expert who was involved in the 1992 trial.

The convicted man found David Townshend's name in a law journal in 2009 and wrote to him from prison.

Mr Townshend agreed to help. He recalled that the bullets originally presented to him by police appeared to be in excellent shape with no trace of blood, bone or hair that would suggest they were removed from the victim's brain and spine.

Mr Townshend said they did not resemble the actual bullets that were locked away in police storage and produced just two years ago.

"Townshend's a hero," Mr Moran said. "He was willing to put his reputation on the line."

AP

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