'Art kept me sane': America's longest-serving inmate to win exoneration, 73, who wrongly spent 45 YEARS in prison is now selling the masterpieces he created behind bars as he struggles to live off $589 a month in food stamps and social security

Richard Phillips said he didn't mope much during the 45 years he wrongfully spent in prison. 
He painted watercolors in his cell: warm landscapes, portraits of famous people like Mother Teresa, vases of flowers, a bassist playing jazz.
'I didn't actually think I'd ever be free again. This art is what I did to stay sane,' the 73-year-old said.
Phillips could be eligible for more than $2million under a Michigan law that compensates the wrongly convicted, but the state so far is resisting and the matter is unsettled. 
So he's displaying roughly 50 of his more than 400 watercolors at a Detroit-area gallery and is willing to sell them.

Richard Phillips, who spent 45 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, stands next to some of his artwork during an interview at the Community Art Gallery in Ferndale, Michigan on Thursday
Richard Phillips, who spent 45 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, stands next to some of his artwork during an interview at the Community Art Gallery in Ferndale, Michigan on Thursday
Back in the day: Phillips, who had worked as a clerk typist for Chrysler, was a 26-year-old father of two when he was hit with a life sentence
Back in the day: Phillips, who had worked as a clerk typist for Chrysler, was a 26-year-old father of two when he was hit with a life sentence
His paintings are precious to him, but he said he has no choice: He needs money.
Phillips was released from custody in 2017 and, in 2018, became the longest-serving U.S. inmate to win exoneration. 
He was cleared of a 1971 homicide after an investigation by University of Michigan law students and the Wayne County prosecutor's office.
Phillips showed his work at an art gallery inside Level One Bank in Ferndale, a Detroit suburb, on Friday night.  
'Are you the artist? God bless you. Beautiful,' a bank customer said while admiring a painting of five musicians Thursday.
Phillips said he bought painting supplies by selling handmade greeting cards to other inmates. 
Phillips was released from custody in 2017 and, in 2018, became the longest-serving U.S. inmate to win exoneration. He was cleared of a 1971 homicide after an investigation by University of Michigan law students and the Wayne County prosecutor's office
Phillips was released from custody in 2017 and, in 2018, became the longest-serving U.S. inmate to win exoneration. He was cleared of a 1971 homicide after an investigation by University of Michigan law students and the Wayne County prosecutor's office
Free at last: He was cleared of a 1971 homicide after an investigation by University of Michigan law students and the Wayne County prosecutor's office
Free at last: He was cleared of a 1971 homicide after an investigation by University of Michigan law students and the Wayne County prosecutor's office
He followed a strict routine of painting each morning while his cellmate was elsewhere. 
He was sometimes inspired by photos in newspapers and liked to use bright colors that didn't spill into each other.
But a cramped cell isn't an art studio. 
Phillips said prison rules prevented him from keeping his paintings so he regularly shipped them to a pen pal.
After he was exonerated, Phillips rode a bus to New York state last fall to visit the woman. He was pleased to find she still had the paintings.
'These are like my children,' Phillips, a former auto worker, said during a tour with The Associated Press.
'But I don't have any money. I don't have a choice. Without this, I'd have a cup on the corner begging for nickels and dimes. I'm too old to get a job,' he said
Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy supports Phillips' effort to be compensated for his years in prison. 
Michigan's new attorney general, Dana Nessel, is reviewing the case. 
It's complicated because he has a separate disputed conviction in Oakland County that's still on the books, spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said.
Phillips' attorney, Gabi Silver, who has helped him adjust to a life of freedom, said the paintings are inspirational.
'To suffer what he has suffered, to still be able to find good in people and to still be able to see the beauty in life - it's remarkable,' she said.
Phillips was a father of two who was 26 years old and already in jail for an armed robbery conviction when local Detroit detectives arrested him for murdering the brother-in-law of a man he knew from the streets. 
'In the spring of 1972 I was sitting in prison and detectives told me that a friend of mine told them that I helped murder a guy with another man, Richard Palombo,' he told DailyMail.com after his release. 
'A guy I formerly ran around with, Fred Mitchell told detectives that me and Palombo murdered his brother-in-law, Gregory Harris in the summer of 1971.'
Fred Mitchell had just been arrested on a burglary charge and told cops of the murder in order to help himself out, Phillips claims.
Based on Mitchell's testimony, both Phillips and Palombo were found guilty of first-degree murder on June 26, 1971 and sentenced in October 1972 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Richard Palombo is currently serving a life sentence, but last month, Wayne County Circuit Judge Kevin J. Cox finally dismissed the murder charges against Phillips.
For years he has maintained that Mitchell, who has since passed away, and Palombo murdered Harris and dumped his body in a field that June. Phillips denied knowing anything about the murder at the time. 
Mitchell was already in prison for a previous charge when Harris allegedly stole money from his mother. He later killed Harris, his own brother-in-law, when he was released from jail as payback, Phillips claims. 
'I don't like what Mitchell did [lie in court] but I half way understand what he did, it was self-preservation. It's the first law of nature, especially in the streets, especially in the hood where I come from, where you have to fight your way in the door and out of the door. I forgave him (Mitchell) over the years. He had to save himself.'
When he first heard the verdict for the murder conviction, Phillips said: 'I just felt like life was over, I was in shock. But at same point I had to come to the realization that life isn't over I have to fight and keep going forward so that is what I tried to do.'
Phillips, who had worked as a clerk typist for Chrysler, spent time in nine different prisons in Michigan over the past 45 years, 'I spent 19 years in one prison here in Detroit and 10 years in one cell. I never left (living in) that cell in 10 years.'
'I've been in the hole three times and only had four write ups in 45 years, I was basically a model prisoner.'
After all of his court appeals ran out with no luck, he started praying, going to church, and taking up painting as a hobby. 
'A good amount of time being imprisoned I spent painting with watercolors alone in my cell,' he said. 
'Art kept me sane': America's longest-serving inmate to win exoneration, 73, who wrongly spent 45 YEARS in prison is now selling the masterpieces he created behind bars as he struggles to live off $589 a month in food stamps and social security 'Art kept me sane': America's longest-serving inmate to win exoneration, 73, who wrongly spent 45 YEARS in prison is now selling the masterpieces he created behind bars as he struggles to live off $589 a month in food stamps and social security Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 06:30 Rating: 5

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