Steven Phillips was wrongly convicted of a string of sexual assaults he didn't commit
DNA evidence cleared him of any wrongdoing in 2008
As compensation for his time in prison, the state of Texas will pay him about $6million

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 14:08 EST, 17 June 2013 | UPDATED: 16:46 EST, 17 June 2013

Steven Phillips spent 24 years in a Texas prison for a string of sexual assaults it was later determined he didn't commit.

For his decades of unjust incarceration, the state of Texas awarded him nearly $6million in compensation after his August, 2009 release, which is in accordance with a relatively new Texas law that specifies the amount of compensation exonerated prisoners are to receive.

Then came the legal bills - his attorneys charged him more than $1million for work they claim to have done to lobby Texas lawmakers to increase the amount of compensation for exonerees.

Then came his ex-wife.

Phillips and his former bride, Traci Tucker, were expecting their first child in 1982, when Phillips was first charged in the case that ultimately would send him to prison for more than two decades. They divorced nearly 10 years later, in 1992, after Phillips says they 'grew apart.'

Now the two are engaged in an ongoing legal battle over compensation she claims she is owed for wages lost by her former husband's incarceration.

“He was a victim of a wrongful justice system, and his family was also,” Tucker tells the Texas Tribune.

Last year, a Dallas County judge awarded Tucker more than $150,000 of Phillips' compensation, a ruling Phillips has since appealed.

The case is likely headed to the Texas Supreme Court, where justices will determine what - if any - sort of compensation former spouses of exonerated prisoners should receive.

In 2009, the Texas Legislature passed the Tim Cole Act, which raised the compensation for exonerated prisoners to $160,000 for each year a person was wrongfully imprisoned. For the 24 years Phillips spent behind bars, he received a lump-sum payment of more than $2million. Additionally, he will receive a monthly annuity of about $11,000, as well as medical and education benefits from the state.
Compensation: Traci Tucker feels she is owed compensation for the 24 years her ex-husband spent in prison

Compensation: Traci Tucker feels she is owed compensation for the 24 years her ex-husband spent in prison

But Phillips contends that the compensation is not for lost wages. Rather, he claims in his appeal, it's a mandatory payment he is owed under the law for his time spent behind bars.

Texas state Senator Rodney Ellis, one of the architects of the Tim Cole Act, seems to agree.

In an affidavit filed in the case, Ellis writes that the legislature never intended to compensate exonerees for lost wages; otherwise it would have been based on their income prior to their incarceration and be subject to taxes (as the law is written, compensation for exonerees is tax-free).

Ellis notes that the Legislature recognized that a man cannot support his children while in prison, which is 'we drafted the compensation statute to include any child support payments and interest on child support arrearage that are owed by the exoneree.'

The affidavit was not allowed into evidence.
After winning his freedom, Phillips is back in court fighting for compensation

After winning his freedom, Phillips is back in court fighting for compensation

Another of the law's architects, state Senator Rafael Anchia, says lawmakers had failed to consider former spouses of exonerees when drafting the law.

'This is an example of the law of unintended consequences,' he says 'We did not think about entitlement by spouses who had become divorced from these innocent men while they were in prison.'

Regardless of the law, Tucker says she had every intention of sticking it out with Phillips while he was in prison.

“To me, marriage was for life, and I was going to be with him forever, and we were going to get through this — or so I thought,” she says.

Prior to the divorce, Tucker claims she visited Phillips frequently and provided him with money to buy things in the prison's commissary.

At his trial, Tucker was Phillips' star witness.

The string of sexual assaults for which Phillips was wrongly convicted happened in 1982. Several women were attacked and forced to perform sex acts at gun point. At least two of the victims wrongly identified Phillips.

Tucker provided Phillips' alibi, testifying that he couldn't be the person committing the assaults because she was with him when some of the assaults took place.

Phillips was convicted anyway and sentenced to two 30-year prison sentences. He subsequently pleaded guilty to several other, similar crimes to avoid what would likely have been a life sentence had he been found guilty.

In 2001, Phillips began learning about DNA and - with the help of the Innocence Project - was able to have his DNA tested against DNA found at the scenes of crimes supposedly committed by him.

The DNA didn't match. However, it did match a convicted sex criminal Sydney Alvin Goodyear.

'This is one of the worst cases of tunnel vision we’ve ever seen. Police seized on Steven Phillips as a suspect and refused to see mounting evidence that someone else actually committed these crimes,' said Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck. 'Sidney Goodyear was a one-man crime spree who could have been stopped much sooner if police had followed the evidence instead of locking onto an innocent man.'

After the Dallas crimes for which Phillips was wrongfully convicted, Goodyear committed at least 16 other sexual assaults and related offenses in multiple states.

Of the lawsuit and inflated bill from his attorneys, Phillips - who says he has no ill-will against his ex - sums his situation up as follows: 'When the cheese is on the table, the rats come out.'