Unspeakable Times

The Longest-Serving Exonerated US Inmate Is Now An Acclaimed Contemporary Painter

In October 1972, Richard Phillips was one of two men convicted in the untimely demise of Gregory Harris. Phillips always claimed he was innocent, but his appeals for a new trial were consistently denied until 2014, four years after Richard Palombo, Phillips's co-defendant, confessed that Phillips was not involved. He was finally granted a new trial in December 2017, and was released on bond after being imprisoned for over 45 years. In March 2018, the charges against him were dropped, making him the longest-serving exonerated inmate in US history.

While incarcerated, Phillips took up painting as a way to try and keep his sanity and process the trauma of being wrongfully accused. He composed hundreds of watercolors, and since he couldn't keep them in his cell, he sent the artwork to a pen pal. After he was released, he retrieved the paintings and reluctantly decided to start exhibiting and selling some of his work in the hope of being able to support himself financially.

Since his release, Phillips has worked on readjusting to being a free man and has received much acclaim for his artwork. He has even established his own gallery.