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Michigan prison virus deaths include man who helped wrongly convicted

A Michigan inmate who helped exonerate another prisoner has died.
Credit: AP
This June 15, 2017, photo provided by the Michigan Department of Corrections shows Richard Palombo, a Michigan prisoner serving a life sentence, who died from COVID-19 complications on Sunday, April 19, 2020, the state Corrections Department said. Palombo had a key role in the 2017 release of another prisoner, Richard Phillips, who had spent 45 years in custody after Palombo told authorities that Phillips had no role in a 1971 homicide and was wrongly convicted. (Michigan Depart. Of Corrections via AP)

DETROIT — A Michigan inmate who helped exonerate another prisoner has died. Richard Palombo is one of 25 prisoners in the state who have died from COVID-19 complications. 

The 71-year-old Palombo had been in poor health while housed at the Lakeland prison in Branch County. Palombo was serving a life sentence for a 1971 murder. 

Decades later, Palombo disclosed that a co-defendant, Richard Phillips, had no role in the shooting. 

Credit: AP
In a photo provided by the Michigan Department of Corrections, Richard Phillips is shown. Phillips, imprisoned 45 years is on the cusp of freedom after another man said he had no role in a 1971 murder in Detroit. A judge last week threw out Phillips' conviction and ordered a new trial. It's not clear if prosecutors will take that step or drop the case. Phillips has declared his innocence for decades. He's been cleared based on the words of Richard Palombo, who was a co-defendant at the 1972 trial. Palombo admitted his role in the shooting during a parole board hearing in 2010, but he insisted that Phillips wasn't present. Four years later, University of Michigan law school learned about Palombo's testimony and successfully reopened the case. (Michigan Department of Corrections via AP)

Phillips had long declared his innocence. Phillips finally was released from prison in 2017 - after 45 years as the longest-serving wrongly convicted person in the U.S. David Moran of the University of Michigan law school said Palombo was a “game-changer.”

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