Ex-Cons Face an Unexpected Adversary: Their Attorney

As they receive high, and unusual, bills for legal work, the exonerated fight back.

Posted: 05/11/2011 10:51 AM EDT
Ex Cons

A growing group of ex-convicts in Texas, who were exonerated after serving time for crimes they didn’t commit, are extremely upset. They charge that their lawyer, Kevin Glasheen, hired to sue a city or state for wrongful imprisonment, has enriched himself unjustly at their expense.


But their ire is also directed at a member of an organization with a reputation for freeing the wrongly convicted: The Innocence Project of Texas. Chapters of the parent organization  have worked on a number of cases involving African-American prisoners in Maryland and Texas successfully.


In one incident highlighted in the curent Glasheen dispute, reported by the New York Times, a prisoner, Steven C. Phillips, was awarded $2 million, with other payments pending, for spending almost 25 years in prison until DNA evidence proved him innocent. Glasheen charged him just over $1 million for his legal services.


Glasheen never fought that suit in court. Instead, he lobbied the Texas Legislature to raise “the payout to exonerated prisoners” for each year served from $50,000 to $80,000. Former inmates then had a choice to accept a settlement for a pot of money or risk receiving less, or nothing, if they sued.


The upshot is that now, former prisoners and the Texas State Bar Association, stunned by Glasheen’s tactics, are suing him. Ex-cons, and some litigators, are also perhaps surprised as well as upset with the chief counsel and co-founder of the Innocence Project of Texas. He is slated to receive $413,000 from Glasheen as payment for referring the Phillips case to the legal lobbyist.


With a situation like this, some former prisoners may feel they suffer a new type of double jeopardy. They didn’t do the crime, but they pay twice in years and money for the time.


(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty)