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Drug Charge Could Cost Dallas Co. DNA Exoneree Millions

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A felony drug charge could cost a Dallas County DNA exoneree millions.

Under Texas law Steven Phillips is paid $80,000 a year for his wrongful conviction. But there's another part of that law -- he loses the money if he's convicted of a felony.

Last week Phillips, 53, was arrested for drug possession. His attorney, Bob Bragalone says it's unfair to take away the annuity for a crime that has nothing to do with the wrongful conviction.

"Steven Phillips served 25 and a half years for crimes he didn't commit, that he was exonerated from DNA evidence. This is apples to oranges."

Bragalone said legislators might have overstepped their bounds with the future crimes caveat in the payment agreement.

"Perhaps they went too far because there are some crimes that are punishable as a felony, like controlled substance, that has nothing to do with the crimes they were originally charged with and later exonerated from."

Phillips was wrongfully convicted for a sex crime. "This is possession of a controlled substance apparently and I can only imagine if someone had served 25 and a half years in prison for crimes they didn't commit they might take up a few bad habits along the way," said Bragalone.

While Phillips received a $2.5 million lump sum payment half of that went to lawyers and not the one who help free him. The legal bill of more than $1 million is from a Lubbock law firm hired in the suit against the City of Dallas for wrongful imprisonment. The firm had a contingency fee of 25-percent of any award.

Earlier this year Phillips and another man filed suit against the firm arguing the fees were excessive.

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