John Phillips, 87, released after spending 68 years in prison.

In 1952, aged 18, John Phillips’ was arrested for the rape of a 4 year old girl. He was taken to a state mental hospital for black people, where he was classified as a “moron” and said he had the mind of a child aged 7 years and 7 months. His layer then entered into a guilty plea, giving him a life sentence but saving him from the gas chamber. Although he pleaded guilty, he has maintained his innocence. According to studies on DNA exonerations, intellectually disabled defendants are likely to make false confessions.

Over the years, he loss the will to leave prison. In 1991, an article was posted saying he was the longest serving prisoner in North Carolina. This prompted his remaining family to start visiting him. This also caused the prison to fear a lawsuit and attempt to release him. This upset Phillips, who told the prison that he wasn’t going any where.

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, he was released on parole on March 9th, 2021. His parole date ends on March 8th, 2026. This date is almost 74 years after his initial arrest.

When asked about why he entered a guilty plea, despite saying he was innocent he said, “They told me that I could live.”

The Marshall Project article.

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