After serving more than 20 years in prison for a number of Texas s*ex crimes he didn’t commit, Steven Phillips was granted parole in 2007.
DNA testing revealed his innocence, resulting in his exoneration, a year after he was granted parole. The DNA test that exonerated Phillips involved another man, who is accused of committing at least 16 different se*xual crimes and associated offenses while Phillips was incarcerated.
Between April and May 1982, a man approached at least 60 women in the Dallas vicinity. He coerced them into engaging in various se*x acts, including rape, stripping off their clothes, and fondling, by threatening them with a gun.
All of the victims described a man with piercing blue eyes who was covered in cloth on the lower half of his face and was dressed in a hooded gray sweatshirt. According to the police, the incidents were all connected to the same man.
Only one of the s*exual assaults resulted in the collection of the attacker’s sperm. On the afternoon of May 14, 1982, a woman from North Dallas was at home with her 2-year-old son. He entered the apartment through the window she had in her bedroom. He told her to put her son in another room as he forced her to remove her clothes and engage in oral se*x with him while brandishing a gun. He raped her in the vagina just before he left the apartment.
After viewing several sets of photos, the rape victim identified Phillips as her attacker. Many other victims of similar crimes also identified Phillips as the perpetrator in photo lineups and live lineups, but before many of these victims made their identifications, police had released photos of Phillips to the media.
Similar crimes had occurred in Kansas City the year before. When shown photo lineups of the victims of those attacks, one of them chose Phillips and identified him as the assailant. Sidney Goodyear was identified as the offender by the victims in Dallas and Kansas City. Sidney Goodyear’s identity was never disclosed to the defense lawyers as required by law. An arrest warrant for Goodyear was issued during the Dallas crime wave, but it was never carried out for an unknown reason.
Phillips was initially tried for breaking into the rape victim’s apartment in August 1982. She again named Phillips as the hooded man with the unmistakable blue eyes who had broken into her apartment and assaulted her in court.
Phillips was found guilty of both burglary and rape despite having green eyes and offering an explanation for where he was when the crime was committed. His sentence for these two convictions was 30 years in prison. Before a third trial could begin, Phillips pleaded guilty to charges relating to five additional incidents and was given an additional 10-year sentence. Phillips insisted he was innocent of these charges as well, but after being found guilty in his first two trials and receiving lengthy prison sentences, he decided against pursuing further legal action for fear that it might result in him spending decades behind bars.
Appealing after conviction and being exonerated
Phillips was arrested once more in 1997 on suspicion of violating his parole after being granted a release from prison on parole in 1996. He wasn’t found guilty again for the 1982 crimes as a result of the parole infraction, but he was nonetheless sent back to prison.
Phillips asked for post-conviction DNA testing in 2002, but his requests were denied. The Innocence Project took on Phillips’ case in 2006 and submitted a request for DNA analysis on Phillips’ behalf. The results demonstrated Phillips’ lack of guilt in the rape. After conducting an investigation, the prosecutor’s office determined that Phillips was not guilty of the charges for which he had already served decades in prison. Sidney Goodyear passed away in prison in 1998 after being found guilty of similar crimes. It was found that the DNA recovered from Goodyear’s autopsy and the DNA from the Dallas crime scene matched.
Phillips was released from prison on parole in 2007 before the DNA test results were made public. Based on those conclusions, the trial court cleared him of all charges in August 2008. A writ of habeas corpus issued by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on October 1, 2008, confirmed his acquittal. Phillips had served his full 24-year term.
Sidney Alvin Goodyear had already been convicted of at least 16 additional s*exual assaults and associated offenses in a number of different states while Phillips was in prison for the assaults he committed in Dallas. Phillips received a $2 million lump sum payment from the state of Texas in 2011 along with an annuity of $11,000 per month.
His total compensation for the time he spent in prison is almost $6 million, and that doesn’t include the health care and education benefits he is also entitled to.
Steven’s ex-wife comes for his money
Traci Tucker, his ex-wife, claimed she was due a share of that cash. Her attorneys claimed that the legal conflict between the two was the nation’s first of its kind.
Tucker claimed the funds were for lost wages, but Phillips claimed otherwise in his appeal. Additionally, he claimed that the money he received shouldn’t be divided in accordance with state laws on community property because he wasn’t paid until well after the divorce.
While acknowledging his appreciation for Tucker’s assistance during his trials, Phillips claimed she visited him in jail only infrequently. He declared, “Trying to get money for the years I spent in jail is crazy as hell.”
The harm done to the spouses of those who are wrongfully convicted, who lose companionship and income and must deal with the embarrassment of having a partner in jail, should be considered by the law, according to Tucker’s attorney Matt Kita.
In the ten years they were married, Tucker claimed she was unable to calculate the amount of money she, her family, and Phillips had spent on legal counsel, travel, and items they required from the prison commissary.
I thought marriage was for life,” she remarked. We were going to get through this and I was going to be with him forever.
She claimed that Phillips had requested a divorce because he had grown distant and desired for her to find new love.
A Texas Court of Appeals ruled on May 12, 2014, that Tucker was not entitled to any of the money he was paid.