Every day that Steven Phillips spent in a Texas prison he believed that he was innocent. He insisted that he was wrongfully convicted with faulty evidence supported by sketchy witness accounts. Moreover, his wife, Traci believed him too. She made constant visits and tried to make the marriage work with the limited time they had together.
For 10 years this worked, but in the end, the marriage fizzled and the parties divorced while Phillips was still in jail.
In 2007, Phillips was exonerated. An investigation using DNA evidence tied the crimes he was convicted of to someone else.
After a lawsuit, Phillips was awarded nearly $6 million in damages. After all, he spent 24 years of his life behind bars for a crime he did not commit. His ex-wife (now Traci Tucker) believed that she was entitled to some form of compensation as well. She dedicated her life to raising the couple’s son (essentially by herself) and did what she could to make the marriage work.
So it begs the question, could an ex-spouse be entitled to compensation based on a wrongful conviction? The question could turn on what such compensation is supposed to reimburse. If it is for lost wages due to incarceration, it could be deemed marital property that is subject to equitable division. The same could be said for money paid for emotional distress.
However, a question could arise regarding the length of the marriage. Phillips spent nearly 15 years behind bars after he was divorced, so the amount paid to an ex-spouse could be minimal at best.
Source: Chron.com, Exoneree faces ex-wife in compensation lawsuit, June 18, 2013