Cleveland, OH

Wrongfully Imprisoned Man Served 15 Years in Prison; Still Not Free

Brown on Cleveland
Kenny PhillipsCourtesy of The Brown Report Newspaper (Photo)

Cleveland, OH. - On May 5, 2006, 17-year-old Kenny Phillips walked out of his mom's house with several friends to celebrate his birthday and returned 15 years later on May 3, 2021. Two weeks earlier, Phillips's grandmother had passed. He was in mourning. According to family members, after the death of his loved one, he had become depressed and a homebody. "I could never imagine having my child walk out of my home and not seeing them for 15 years. I would be devastated. As Kenny's wife, I am still hurt about what he has gone through; his family, his mom, and our family", stated Maelynn Phillips.

During Memorial Day weekend in 2006, a shooting occurred near 55th street and Woodland Ave in Cleveland. Phillips, Michael Sutton, and several others were in the vicinity. When the police arrived, they began questioning the young men. According to news reports, after the police pulled over Sutton, he informed the police that someone in a gold vehicle fired shots and injured the victims. According to the police (as reported), Phillips attempted to run and shoot at the officers after a brief pursuit.

Judge Peter J. Corrigan was the presiding officer. Phillips and Sutton were found guilty of shooting at Cleveland Police Officers. Philips received 92.5 years, and Sutton received 46.5 years. Both of them had public defenders while both maintained their innocence. Phillips and Sutton wrote to the Innocence Project. In 2015, The Ohio Innocent Project got involved with this case. The Innocence Project, founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law, exonerates the wrongfully convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent further injustice. Attorney Donald Caster with the Ohio Innocent Project believes that Phillips and Sutton are innocent. During a press conference in November 2020, Caster told the media, " two police officers, one current and one former, have come forward and said the original testimony from others officers doesn't make sense from what they saw."

Activist Marva Patterson is pleased to hear that this case is getting another look, and the young men are getting a second chance. Patterson says, "the court has not upheld the same mandates of jurisprudence they've sworn to uphold. Absent that mandate; innocent people will continue to be jailed needlessly. This institution is why organizations like The Ohio Innocent Project are vital in the interim."

Phillips says, "It's hard for me - it's rough. The higher court vacated the previous order, but I still got stuff on my back. When I got released, I had to wear an ankle bracelet. Afterward, I got put on probation. Every other week, I have to meet with a probation officer and take a urine test. I am not free". "Our family, we continue to struggle. He can't find a job because of the stigma. It's tough, but we are making it work. We have a sound support system," stated Mrs. Phillips.
Maelynn and Kenny PhillipsCourtesy of The Brown Report Newspaper (Photo)

As Phillips is trying to get his life back on track, he wants to become a personal life trainer and is mentoring neighborhood youth. "I must find a way to get my message to them. Do not get in cars with friends. I wish I had followed my first mind. I would have never left the house that afternoon," stated Phillips.

The men are out on bond, awaiting a new trial. If you want more information on The Innocent Project, you can call (513) 556-0752.

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"Brown On Cleveland" features podcast host, licensed social worker, and social justice activist Kimberly F. Brown. Former talk show host with WOVU.95fm. Brown is the Chief Administrator of The Brown Report Newspaper. Brown experience is with investigative reporting.

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