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DNA Test Clears Convicted Rapist 24 Years On
A man who served 12 years in prison for a rape he did not commit will have his name cleared after DNA testing identified another man as the culprit.
Michael Phillips pleaded guilty to the 1990 rape of a 16-year-old girl because his lawyer advised him to avoid going to a trial.
On Friday, a Texas district court judge ruled that Mr Phillips' conviction should be vacated.
The case now heads to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, but it was not immediately clear when it would make a ruling.
"I never imagined I would live to see my name cleared," said Mr Phillips, who suffers from sickle cell anaemia and uses a wheelchair.
"Six of my siblings died from the same disease, so I thank God for sustaining me in prison," he said in a news release from the district attorney's office.
"I always told everyone I was innocent and now people will finally believe me."
Mr Phillips said his lawyer at the time told him not to go to trial because a jury would likely not side with a black man accused in the rape of a white girl.
Furthermore, the victim had picked him out of a photo line-up.
Mr Phillips' reversal of fortune is due to an ongoing project by Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who is testing old rape kits.
"This is a great day for Mr Phillips but a terrible day for our justice system," Mr Watkins said on Friday.
The district attorney said there was no DNA from Mr Phillips to compare to the profile from the semen in the rape kit.
But when the semen was put into the FBI's database, another person was identified as the culprit.
Mr Phillips, 57, was released in 2002 but his failure to register as a sex offender later landed him back in jail for six months.
He now lives in a nursing home.
The statute of limitations has expired on the crime and the perpetrator who was identified remains free, a district attorney's office spokeswoman said.