Detroit — Before becoming America's most unlikely art phenom,was in prison. In 1971, he was arrested for a murder we now know he didn't commit. To pass the time and temper the injustice, he painted.
"It was something to do, occupy my mind," Phillips said. "I could get off into one of my paintings and just be in there for hours."
That's how it was for 46 years, until he was exonerated last spring. That's more time served than any other exoneree in U.S. history.
After all that, they just let him go, without so much as a bus ticket. Failing him for a second time, until now. One year into his newfound freedom, the state attorney general finally agreed those lost years were worth $1.5 million. Now state legislators just need to approve the money.
His paintings are now selling for thousands of dollars and it's all because after nearly half a century of wrongful imprisonment. But Phillips said there was no time left for self-pity.
"I'm gonna be alright regardless, whether they compensate me or not," he said.
Which brings us to the most impressive pat of this story: Despite mistreatment after mistreatment, Phillips has actually found a bright side in all this.
"It would be remiss of me to actually want to keep all of this stuff rather than share it with the American public," he said.
A poignant reminder of what he lost, and what he found.