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Sex Offender Exonerated 2 Decades after False Identification

Posted by Terry O'Malley | Aug 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Sex offenders aren't popular people. The general public is disposed to hate the very mention of a registered sex offender, and live in terror that one might move in next door. They don't even think of the possibility that someone was overcharged, committed a crime like peeing in public, or could have been falsely accused. But, as criminal defense attorneys with over 25 years of experience, we have seen how common all three possibilities are in Denver, Adams, and Jefferson County sex offense cases. In fact, recent headlines called to our attention a story about a sex offender exonerated over 2 decades after a false identification.

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Meet Michael Phillips: Falsely Accused

Michael plead guilty to avoid life in prison

In 1990, a 16-year-old woman was raped in a hotel by a man in a black ski mask. During the struggle, the woman pulled off the mask of the man, and later identified him in a photo lineup. In a moment, Michael Phillips' life was destroyed. He worked as a maintenance man at the hotel, and lived there; he was shocked to be picked out of the lineup. Phillips' public defender didn't offer him much hope – Phillips had two things going against him in the Michael was picked out of a photo lineup – but he didn't commit the crime.justice system – he was black, and he had a criminal record. The public defender told him the offer he got (99 years behind bars), was better than being convicted and receiving a life sentence. Phillips decided to work with another public defender who had a better outlook, but not a just one: Michael Phillips took his counsel's advice and pled guilty in exchange for 12 years in prison. He says a faulty justice system was to blame for his unjust treatment.

An Innocent Sex Offender

After he was released, Michael's real trials began when he had to register as a sex offender

Once he got out of prison, Michael Phillips' real trials began. As a registered sex offender, he couldn't find work or a place to live. He tried living with his sister, but neighbors soon found out about his past and began harassing his family. He was overwhelmed by the public's disgust and horror. He said it is “hard to have people look at you sideways and upside-down and cross-eyed and roll their eyes at you.” He struggled to make ends meet – working as a handyman, and moving around frequently.

Sex Offender Exonerated at Last by DNA

Michael had been identified as the result of a faulty police photo lineup

Earlier this month, Michael Phillips was exonerated of the 1990 rape of the young woman. DNA evidence was examined by the District Attorney's office as part of a program which screens untested rape kits. It was found that Michael Phillips did not commit the rape – instead, it was another man at the hotel.  The young woman had falsely identified him – most likely the result of a faulty police lineup. She was devastated she had chosen the wrong man so many years before. Now, Michael Phillips has his life back – he no longer has to register as a sex offender, his name has been cleared, and he has been paid restitution for his time in prison. But, his life was destroyed – all because the justice system failed him.

Mistakes are Made in Court: Why You Need a Lawyer

Mistakes are made in the courtroom. Many of them are unknowingly made, some happen because of faulty procedures (such as how photo lineups are conducted), and some are made because District Cases without evidence are taken to trial often: Work with a lawyer whose top priority is getting your case dismissed.Attorneys want the courtroom practice. We recently won a serious Sexual Assault on a Child by a Person in a Position of Trust case where there was absolutely no evidence. The DA took it to trial, however, because she wanted experience. The criminal justice system is broken. Good people are sentenced to prison for crimes they didn't commit. Don't go into the courtroom unprepared. Contact one of the best lawyers at our office to protect your future. Our excellent attorneys know the criminal court system inside and out, and we fight to win.

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If you or a loved one has been falsely accused of a crime in Douglas, Arapahoe, or Boulder County, be smart, exercise your right to remain silent, and contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the O'Malley Law Office for a free consultation at 303-830-0880. Together, we will protect your future.Request a Free Consultation

Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About the Author

Terry O'Malley

Get Help Now! Request a Free Consultation Meet Criminal Defense Attorney Terry O'Malley If you have been charged with a crime, you are probably dealing with strong emotions about your upcoming court appearance. You are struggling with knowing how to choose a trustworthy lawyer to represent you...

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Get Help Now

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in the Denver area, be smart, exercise your right to remain silent, and contact the best criminal defense lawyers at O’Malley and Sawyer, LLC at 303-830-0880. Together, we can protect your future. Request a Free Consultation

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