The ordeal began in 1990, when a young woman was raped by a black man, in a white ski mask in her room at a Dallas motel.

The victim, a 16 year old white woman, pulled her attacker’s mask up while fighting back. She claimed to have immediately recognized him, having seen him in the area before.

Michael Phillips, who lived and worked at the motel, fit the description. Later that week he was arrested after being picked out of a photo line-up.

At the point of his arrest, Phillips felt that the cards were stacked against him. On the advice of his public defender, he accepted a guilty plea.  Fearing that a jury would believe the victim’s statement over his own, he took the deal in order to avoid getting a longer sentence and in the hopes of getting parole.

Michael Phillips, then 33, received a 12 year prison sentence.

After being denied parole he served his entire sentence and was released in 2002. Upon failing to register as a sex offender he was arrested and sentenced to another six months.

Almost 24 years later DNA evidence has proven Michael Phillips was innocent all along.

Phillips did not request any DNA testing upon his release in 2002. Having accepted that his name would never be cleared, he continued on with his life. He was awestruck when informed of the DNA evidence and had a hard time believing it at first.

The error was found when a semen sample for the rape kit was tested earlier this year. 

The efforts were part of an ongoing project being conducted by the Dallas Conviction Integrity Unit. The goal of the unit is to clear the names of those falsely convicted by reviewing DNA in untested rape kits.

When the DNA profile from semen found in the rape kit was entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, the real perpetrator was identified, Lee Marvin Banks. He lived in the same hotel and was roughly the same age and build as Phillips. Banks will remain free because the statute of limitations on the crime has expired.

Under Texas Law, Phillips is entitled to $960,000 for his wrongful conviction!

He now lives in a nursing home and is wheelchair bound due to severe sickle cell anemia, an illness which he was hospitalized for nine times while in prison. For the past 12 years of his life Phillips has been a registered sex offender.

He considers his exoneration to be God’s word and his time spent in prison part of God’s plan to make him stronger.