Steven Phillips is like many people who were found to be wrongfully imprisoned. In 1982 (and 1983) he was convicted of a number of sex crimes even though he vehemently claimed his innocence. His wife, Traci, also supported his denials. While Phillips was in prison, she maintained a close relationship with him. She made constant visits, raised their son and sent him money for things that he would need. All the while, searching for a way to get him released
However, the couple grew apart and divorced in 1992.
In 2007, the case was reopened and DNA evidence gave credence to what Phillips had been arguing all along…that he was innocent.
In 2009, the State of Texas made a monetary award to compensate Phillips for the time he spent in prison (24 years). He received a lump sum award of $2 million, a monthly annuity of $11,000, and ongoing health benefits. All told, Phillips received nearly $6 million for his troubles.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Phillips’ ex-wife petitioned a Dallas County court for a portion of the proceeds. While the report did not identify a specific reason, it is possibly based on the notion that a portion of the settlement can be considered income earned while the parties were married.
It was viewed as one of the first cases of its kind, and will likely lead to appellate rulings to define whether a spouse is entitled to compensation based on wrongful arrests and confinement even after the parties have divorced.
Source: Chron.com, Exoneree faces ex-wife in compensation lawsuit, June 18, 2013