CRIME

Detroit man is cleared of 1992 deadly shooting, walks free

A 51-year-old man has convinced a judge against all odds that Detroit cops framed him in a fatal shooting 25 years ago with bogus bullet evidence.

Desmond Ricks was found guilty of killing Gerry Bennet on March 3, 1992. He was sentenced to 32 years in prison. His conviction was overturned Friday with seven years left on his sentence.

The trial evidence against Ricks included two pristine bullets prosecutors said had been recovered from the victim.

Photographs obtained by his lawyers in 2015 showed those wrong bullets. The bullets that killed Bennet were in poor shape.

New tests showed one of those bullets didn’t come from the gun police said was the murder weapon. The other bullet wasn’t tested because of its mutilated condition.

"Ricks was a great advocate for his own cause," defense lawyer David Moran said. "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."

Ricks told the The Associated Press that he wants to get a job, pay taxes, and just be a "normal citizen." He said he wants to reunite with two daughters and six grandchildren whom he has never seen. 

In 1992, Ricks was with Bennett when Bennett was shot in the head outside a restaurant. Ricks said he ran away, dodging gunfire. But a few days later, police pinned the slaying on him and seized his mother's gun.

"I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had nothing to do with this," Ricks told The Associated Press earlier this year. "They switched the bullets on me."

Ricks had a key ally in his bid to reopen the case: an independent firearms expert who was involved in the '92 trial. He found David Townshend's name in a law journal in 2009 and wrote to him from prison.

Judge Richard Skutt threw out Ricks' second-degree murder conviction Friday after the Wayne County prosecutor's office agreed it should be erased. It's possible that he could face a second trial but that seems highly unlikely. Spokeswoman Maria Miller said the next move will be discussed in court on June 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.