Mistrial By Google In The Case of The Ex-Wife After an Exoneree's Millions

Categories: Legal Battles

Thumbnail image for steven phillips.jpg
Photo by Danny Fulgencio
"Jesus didn't want us to have a trial this close to his birthday," Steven Phillips's attorney, Tom McKenzie, said yesterday. He was joking, we're pretty sure.

His point: That the prospect of an ex-wife now 20 years divorced from Phillips cutting a slice out of the roughly $4 million paid to him by the state for a quarter century in prison as an innocent man so offended the Heavens that they intervened divinely.

What really happened: A juror Googled Phillips and poisoned the well, and the judge found out about it, resulting in a successful motion by McKenzie for a mistrial. It's a stay, albeit a temporary one. McKenzie says he expects they'll be back in court to retry the case this summer, to once again venture out into completely uncharted areas of divorce law, heretofore a stranger to the intersection of exonerees, big state payouts and the wives they leave behind.

Phillips was put away in 1982 for a string of rapes he didn't commit. He was a convenient suspect who fit the bill with a troubled sexual past, but it wasn't until 2008, after DNA testing excluded him as the rapist, that he was finally set free. The Tim Cole Act provides $160,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment to Texas exonerees, to be split into a lump sum and an annuity. Steven, with his long years inside, collected more than most.

He was married to Traci Tucker for about a decade, most of it while he was locked up. The two had a child together, and she's since been compensated for the unpaid child support through the compensation law. But, until the mistrial Tuesday, she was suing him for a cut of the millions he was paid, her argument being that the money is, in part, for lost wages and subject to a divorce settlement. Not to mention the fact that she raised his kid alone.

McKenzie says there is no language in the Tim Cole Act classifying any of the money as recompense for lost wages. Phillips adds that he didn't see much of his wife after the first three years in prison. A spokesperson for Tucker's attorney said she continued to visit him throughout his prison term, even depositing money into his commissary account regularly. In a deposition, Tucker said it was Phillips who pushed her away.

This is only the latest in a series of legal woes afflicting the exoneree who can't seem to stay out of court (and jail). He just settled with his former attorney -- who fought to see compensation raised for all Texas exonerees -- over a million in fees he refused to pay. He got busted with a trifling amount of cocaine hidden in a to-go container in Carrollton. And, of course, there's the whole spending-half-of-his-life-in-prison-for-something-he-didn't-do thing.


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10 comments
Lena373
Lena373

Being a single mother I cannot imagine being pregnant then raising a child alone all while my husband has been wrongfully imprisoned. I am sure he suffered tremendously in prison but I am also sure that she suffered too having to raise her child alone with no help or financial support. Doesnt that count for anything? Besides I beleive they were married for 10 years and she is not entitled to child support until after they are divorced meaning for all those years they were married she does not get one dime.

Jury panel member
Jury panel member

I was actually part of the "whittled down" 60 member jury panel yesterday, chosen from an original pool of over 300.  Not surprising that someone googled the defendant's name, despite the judge's admonishment.  The majority of the people in that courtroom were idiots, not to mention the bumbling fool of an attorney that represented the plaintiff.  What a waste of time and resources.  I'll sum up the entire experience in one word:  RIDICULOUS!

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Wow, talk about a kick in the junk. I'm hoping he keeps his cash and is allowed to go along his way, let this dumb broad go out and get a job on her own..

Guest
Guest

So now "The Good Wife" is showing stories "ripped from the headlines" before the headlines are even printed.

Also, spoiler alert.

Uncle_Scrappy
Uncle_Scrappy

Just another example of his GREED. DOesnt even seem to care about his child or anything. We know what a Bottom Slime you really are.

juror
juror

I was chosen to serve on the 12 person jury.  The juror that googled Mr. Phillips did so during a break in voire dire and before the final jury selection.  The juror claimed that the attorneys made her google Phillips because they had mentioned that the case had been in the media which made him/her curious and s/he could not resist looking it up.  S/he actually fessed up after being selected and before opening arguments.  S/he was called to the judge's office twice to discuss the issue.

That was not the only issue.  Three other jurors were called into the judge's chambers.  One was the sole caretaker of a family member with medical problems.  Two others worked the graveyard shift and were concerned that they would have to work and serve on the jury.

I have to agree though, the people on the jury panel did nothing to affirm my faith in humanity.

T-Bone
T-Bone

Yeah Fuck this guy, he just had 20 years of his life taken away and you say he is greedy? I'm sure you are called a "dick" a lot.

Guest
Guest

Well, we don't know that none of his money has gone or will go to his kid. Money sent to the ex-wife wouldn't necessarily flow to the kid.

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