Wrongly Convicted Database Record


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Phillip Bivens



Murder and Rape


Life Imprisonment

Years Imprisoned:


Year Crime:


Year Convicted:


Year Cleared:


U.S. State or Country of Crime:


County or Region of Crime:


City of Crime:



Judicially Exonerated Released

Summary of Case:

"Phillip Bivens, Bobby Ray Dixon and Larry Donnell Ruffin were co-defendants. The three men were convicted in 1980 of the 1979 rape and murder of a woman in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The key evidence against the men was the eyewitness testimony of a the victim's four-year-old son, and confessions by the three men that were inconsistent with each other and the facts of the crime. The men recanted their confessions as coerced by threats of the death penalty if they didn't confess. Phillip Bivens and Bobby Dixon both pled guilty and testified against Larry Ruffin. However, at the end of his testimony Dixon said he was coerced to pled guilty and he had never seen the victim. The three men were sentenced to life in prison. Ruffin died in prison in 2002 from accidentally being electrocuted. Post-conviction DNA testing conducted in June 2010 excluded the three men. Bivens and Dixon filed motions to vacate their convictions. Dixon was dying of lung cancer and the Mississippi Dept of Corrections agreed to release him on compassionate parole. On September 16, 2010 the convictions of Bivens and Dixon were overturned and Bivens was released on bail after 31 years of wrongful imprisonment. In December 2010 a Forrest County Grand Jury formally dismissed the charges against the two men. On February 18, 2011, Larry Ruffin was posthumously exonerated by Forrest County Circuit Judge Robert Helfrich filed an Order that read in part -- "Larry Ruffin is officially exonerated and declared innocent of the crime of capital murder for which he was convicted in 1980 in Forrest County. That conviction is null and void." The same grand jury that dismissed the charges against Bivens and Dixon indicted Andrew Harris for the murder that the DNA testing identified as the actual culprit. Dixon died in 2010 shortly after is release from prison. Biven died in 2014. Prior to his death, Bivens and the estates of Dixon and Ruffin filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2013 that named as defendants, Forrest County, the City of Hattiesburg, Forrest County Sherriff's office personel, several Hattiesburg Police Department officers, and several other individuals. The lawsuit was settled on August 1, 2016 for a total of $16.5 million, with Forrest County paying $15.3 million,and the City of Hattiesburg paying $1.2 million, to be shared by the estates of the three deceased plaintiffs. Bivens, Dixon and Ruffin's lead legal counsel in the civil suit was the New York City law firm of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP. Two of the partners in NS&B are Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, co-founders of the non-profit Innocence Project in New York. In 2015 the State of Mississippi awarded compensation of $50,000 each to the estates of Bivens, Dixon and Ruffin."

Conviction Caused By:

Innocence Proved By:

DNA testing conducted in 2010 that was unavailable at the time of their 1980 trial excluded all three co-defendants as the perpetrator.

Defendant Aided By:

"Pro bono attorney Rob McDuff and the Innocence Project New Orleans. Represented in wrongful imprisonment lawsuit by the law firm of Peter Neufeld, Barry Scheck, & Nick Brustin (NS&B)."

Compensation Awarded:

Was Perpetrator Identified?

Age When Imprisoned:


Age When Released:





Information Source 1:

"Ex-inmate cleared after his death, By Jerry Mitchell (staff writer), Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS), 2-21-2011"

Information Location 1:


Information Source 2:

"Convictions overturned: Imprisoned men free at last, By Jerry Mitchell (staff), Clarion Ledger (Jackson, MS), September 17, 2010"

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Information Source 3:

"Bobby Ray Dixon, Innocence Project New Orleans, September 1, 2010"

Information Location 3:


Information Source 4:

"$16.5M settlement reached for 3 exonerated men, By Lici Beveridge (Gannett Mississippi), The Clarion-Ledger, August 3, 2016"

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Information Source 5:

"Philip Bivens et al v. Forrest County et al, Civil No. 2:13-cv-8 (KS) (MTP) (USDC SD Miss., Hattiesburg Div.) (42 USC 1983 federal civil rights lawsuit)"

Information Location 5:

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Innocents Database Created and Maintained by Hans Sherrer innocents@forejustice.org

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