Does Ex-Wife Of Exonerated Man Deserve Cut Of Restitution Money?

divorce money

Some people would argue that the system of dividing assets in the wake of a failed marriage is unfair. Some would say that a highly supportive spouse is entitled some "proper share" of the household's combined net worth. And some would even say that all's fair in love and war and the dissolution therein of either. Those people and/or their partners never were wrongly incarcerated for 20-some-odd years.

Per the Texas Tribune (henceforth the TexTrib), a man was convicted of a series of sex crimes in the early 80s based on nothing but shaky eyewitness testimony. The man, a Steven Phillips, was defended vigorously by his wife Traci. But his legal counsel told him to plea bargain to avoid a potential life sentence. While despicable regimes throughout history (Reign Of Terror France, 1950's Soviet Union, the Galactic Empire under Emperor Palpatine) have had a willy-nilly approach to due process and destroying the lives of the innocent, we don't think that kind of railroading is possible in the US. The Phillips', and their newborn son, spent a decade trying to make the most of a wholly untenable situation and divorced in the early 1990's.

Flash-forward to the tail-end of last decade. Through the magic of really spot-on DNA testing, another convict was found guilty of the attacks that robbed Mr. Phillips of his better years. The state of Texas, a believer in the ultra-firm but a kinda-fair brand of justice, awarded him with a package worth more than $6 million as part of his restitution. Included in the restitution was a lump sum of $2 million and various non-factored "perks" such as education and health care.

In the wake of this awful windfall, the former Mrs. Phillips, now Traci Tucker, wanted her share of the pie. Her argument states that she was entitled to some of his missed wages while he was incarcerated. She was awarded $150K for the 10 years they remained married during his stint in the pokey. Naturally, he's appealing but also faces a suit for missed child support from a different ex and another suit or two from a legal eagles who believe they too are entitled to some of the blood money that Texas paid him as a result of errors that held him in a cage for than two and a half decades.

I'm not sure where I stand on, say, Kobe Bryant's wife demanding and/ or receiving a large portion of his earnings despite her inability to hit a game-winning jump shot. I do know that in a similar position of being unjustly locked in jail for more than 20 years, I'd be incredibly reluctant to part with one pewter nickel of my restitution.

Frankly, I applaud Mr. Phillips for not being in full-on Count Of Monte Cristo revenge mode on the entire system, not to mention that wretch de Villefort.

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