Turner, incidentally, says he's charging Phillips $300 per hour, his standard rate, to represent him. He's working on contingency basis for Giles and Waller. If they win, he'll collect a third of what they recover.

Anchía says Glasheen "did spend a lot of time in my office working to change the law," which upped the compensation from $50,000 to $80,000 for each year the wrongfully imprisoned spent behind bars. But he says that Glasheen's demand for a cut of the exonerees' annuities "is a pretty significant overreach." Which is why, in part, he co-authored with state Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston HB417, which provides exonerees health care and, more important, says an attorney can charge the wrongfully accused a fee "based on a reasonable hourly rate," not a percentage of the lump sum and annuity.

"I simply said, 'We need to do something about this,' which is why we made it clear they can only charge hourly. It's good—some people say generous, I say good—to help exonerees get on their feet, and I've heard about other lawyers who say they'll do the same thing, which is fill out a one-page form and get 40 percent, which is just wrong. These guys need everything they can get from the state, including all the money they have coming to them."

Steven Phillips served 24 years in prison for a sexual assault he didn't commit. Now free, he stands to receive $4.1 million in restitution from the state but is suing his former lawyer, Kevin Glasheen, who claims he's owed a quarter of that amount.
AP Photo/LM Otero
Steven Phillips served 24 years in prison for a sexual assault he didn't commit. Now free, he stands to receive $4.1 million in restitution from the state but is suing his former lawyer, Kevin Glasheen, who claims he's owed a quarter of that amount.
Innocence Project of Texas chief counsel Jeff Blackburn (left) celebrates with Charles Chatman in 2008 as Chatman leaves a Dallas courtroom cleared of a wrongful rape conviction that put Chatman behind bars for 27 years. Chatman paid Glasheen 25 percent of the money he received from Texas in compensation post-exoneration. Blackburn, meanwhile, has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in "referral fees" for sending Innocence Project clients to private lawyers.
AP Photo/Tim Sharp
Innocence Project of Texas chief counsel Jeff Blackburn (left) celebrates with Charles Chatman in 2008 as Chatman leaves a Dallas courtroom cleared of a wrongful rape conviction that put Chatman behind bars for 27 years. Chatman paid Glasheen 25 percent of the money he received from Texas in compensation post-exoneration. Blackburn, meanwhile, has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in "referral fees" for sending Innocence Project clients to private lawyers.

Where Turner is strident in his criticism of Glasheen's fees, one of Glasheen's clients is more reserved. Charles Chatman served 27 years in a Texas prison after being convicted in Dallas of a rape he didn't commit before being proven innocent by DNA testing and freed in 2008. Since his release, he's been outspoken about the treatment of the wrongly accused and remains close to many of his fellow exonerees.

Chatman paid Glasheen 25 percent of his settlement from the state, which amounted to more than a million dollars in lawyer's fees. He calls Glasheen's a "really expensive law firm."

"They both have a good argument," he says of the case between Philliips and Glasheen. "I'm really just trying to stay neutral right now."

Still, when asked whether Glasheen's charges are fair, Chatman admits: "No, in my opinion, no...The fact is that we did just as much of the lobbying as he did." He acknowledges, however, that Glasheen's lobbying had a significant effect on the Anchía bill's passage.

Chatman thinks paying lawyers by percentage was unfair because the payment depends on the length of imprisonment, rather than the work of a lawyer. For people with smaller settlements, the fees can seem even more significant.

"If Steven wins this case...that would open the door [for other exonorees]," Chatman says.

Chatman says he didn't think the amount he paid Glasheen was exorbitant until he thought it through later. "I was OK really at first until I really realized what was happening...I'd been locked up and outside of society for so long...We didn't really know the procedure. We didn't know what we were getting into. [But] ignorance is no defense in the court of law."

Now, he says, "I think it's wrong...something should be done about it."

Chatman is awaiting the outcome in Molberg's court before he makes any decision about whether he'll try to recoup some of the money he paid Glasheen. He says he has two reasons for waiting.

"I have a personal reason why I didn't sign the lawsuit," Chatman says. "Johnny Pinchback."

Pinchback was freed in May after serving 27 years for aggravated assault. Employees and friends of Glasheen worked on Pinchback's behalf.

"I needed the Innocence Project to work on Johnny Pinchback's case," Chatman says. "I needed the best attorneys to work on his case. I didn't want to ruffle anybody's feathers.

"It's worth it...to see another person who's innocent be free; it was worth that to me."

His second reason for not joining in is surprising, coming from a man so wronged by the justice system: He trusts the courts to do what's right.

"If the court said that [Glasheen] was right in the way that he handled these claims, then I would accept the court's findings," Chatman says. "Not just with Steven, but with me and with all the other exonerees too.

"If I join the lawsuit, I want to know that I'm right. I'm trusting the judge to make the call."

Whatever the outcome of Turner and Glasheen's court battle, much work remains to be done on behalf of the wrongly imprisoned seeking their statutory compensation: Last week, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs' office sent out a press release saying that Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years in prison, most of them on death row, for a crime he didn't commit, will finally get the $1.45 million he's owed by the state, which initially refused to cut him the check because his exoneration paperwork didn't say "actual innocence."

But, says the release, Graves' case "also highlighted the need for the wrongful imprisonment compensation statute to be reviewed through a study or workgroup."

"We have to follow what's set in state law when reviewing applications for compensation," Combs says. "We have paid more than $41 million to about 70 people. But the initial Anthony Graves application showed there are wrongfully imprisoned Texans who may not have the required legal documents as outlined in statute to receive compensation. So we hope to work with lawmakers and any interested groups to look at the compensation law and see how it can be improved."

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12 comments
You may say I'm a dreamer
You may say I'm a dreamer

Um, who's the ones being greedy?!?! I'll wager no suit would've been filed against Glasheen if he had been reasonable in his compensation demands.

You may say I'm a dreamer
You may say I'm a dreamer

No one is saying that lawyers should'n't be paid. But these lawyers hoodwinked the innocent, who, after decades sitting in prison, did not have the wherewithal to understand the contracts they signed with the lawyer and probably trusted the Innocence Project lawyer who referred them.to Glasheen. Really, no amount of money can give them back the years they lost and the trauma of what they've experienced.

You may say I'm a dreamer
You may say I'm a dreamer

These lawyers misrepresented themselves. Blackburn was allegedly working as a representative of the Innocence Project, but he used that organizations resources to cherry pick the best cases for his buddy, Glasheen, who gave him the agreed upon kickback. They're in this mess because they've overreached. No, working for free is not something lawyers do, but naked greed and exploitative practices like this should be reined in.

Nokilljoe
Nokilljoe

Lawyer Randy Turner stated he was only charging the three clients his going rate of $300/hr. His going rate is actually $250/hr. He stated this in court two weeks ago to a judge. He's even ripping off his own clients. Ever since tort reform his business has been way down. That's why he's been doing some pro-bono work. Odd he's not helping out these three clients for free. They were innocent. One pro-bono client was Steven Woods the fake lraqi war veteran whose dog bit two elderly people. Turner lost the case but helped Woods bilk people out of donations. He's also representing a woman who committed animal cruelty pro-bono. She owns property and her husband is an engineer. Turner doesn't charge her but he does charge three innocent men with no money? Turner wants part of the big compensation just like the other lawyers. Greedy lawyers all of them.

Exonr8
Exonr8

That's absurd. One case is obviously litigation, the other some would be slick lobbying in Austin...or whatever. Now, you figure out which case a Texas Attorney should be involved in. Haha. Thank you verry much.

glittermama
glittermama

So lawyers are scumbags ! What else is new?

Azlemolly
Azlemolly

how many people do you know who work for free?

Cp9193
Cp9193

So lawyers are scumbags! What else is new?

Maria
Maria

Buy and read Tested by Dorothy and Peyton Budd on the subject of wrongly convicted men in Texas.

Hugh
Hugh

"I take it from the comments I see that the deadbeats here on this posting believe that attorneys are supposed to work for free. Do you work for free? Does your doctor? Your plumber? Your mechanic?" No, of course not. But then people expect teachers and government workers to labor for next to nothing, so why not attorneys? Or doctors?

Hugh
Hugh

It's not a question of the DNA not matching because the sample has degraded with time. Absence of a match is not proof that someone else did it. Texas has many people still in prison for whom the DNA proves they weren't the rapist, but it can't exclude them from being present at the crime scene, so they continue to serve time. The samples in this case were good enough to 1) exclude Phillips and 2) to implicate someone else. You should not be worried that we might erroneously freeing a guilty man, you should be concerned about the number of innocent people who have been convicted and later proven to be innocent. From the founding of this country we long held the view that it was preferable to free a hundred guilty men to wrongly convicting a single innocent man, but now we seem not to care that we regularly convict the innocent and those who do are dismissed as "liberals".

 
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