Update: Thriving at home after 13 years on death row with multiple sclerosis
Paul House lived with multiple sclerosis for 13 of 22 years on Tennessee's death row before DNA evidence freed him.
August 16th, 2011
03:52 PM ET

Update: Thriving at home after 13 years on death row with multiple sclerosis

Paul House left Tennessee's death row nearly four years ago a crippled man. Sure, he was free, but after 13 years of living with multiple sclerosis in prison, he was a gaunt shell of a man, unable to walk or barely talk, scared to go out in public for fear of being harassed.

Now, he’s a different person, says his mother, Joyce House. He has new teeth, and an affinity for Arby’s beef-and-cheddar sandwiches has helped him gain weight. Thanks to treatment and medication, he can communicate with others and play online poker. When it’s not too hot outside, he exercises on parallel bars in his mother's backyard so that one day, he can hopefully transition from a wheelchair to a walker.

Most importantly, he has overcome a fear of public scrutiny that had haunted him since his release in 2008, after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that new DNA evidence could have led a jury to acquit him in the 1985 murder of Carolyn Muncey. House spent 22 years on death row before his release.

"When he first came home, he didn't want to go anywhere. He was so afraid people were going to come up to him and say, 'oh you're a murderer,' " his mother said. "I told him people know you're innocent, I know you're innocent, you know you're innocent. He’d say, 'yeah, but does everyone else know?' "

House was placed under house arrest in 2008 while he awaited retrial. In 2009, a month before his trial, Union County District Attorney Paul Phillips filed a petition to drop all charges, saying DNA evidence presented significant reasonable doubt.

"Took 'em long enough," House said at the time.

His lawyer said he has filed a petition for executive clemency, which would provide for financial compensation. "He’ll never be able to walk, but he still strives to one day reach the walker,” Joyce House said.

"He says, 'whenever I get to where I can walk with the walker, we're going to see Mr. Kissinger,' the lawyer who set him free," she said.

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Filed under: Crime • Death Penalty • Health • Tennessee
soundoff (246 Responses)
  1. svann

    Prosecutors should be made to testify at the end of trial that they have not manipulated or hidden evidence, and have not suborned or have knowledge of perjured testimony. Then if the prosecutor decides to take the 5th the jury can decide whether to weigh that in their judgement of the defendant.

    August 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • JeramieH

      They do it regardless of the existing penalties anyway, so I don't see how taking the stand would make any difference.

      August 16, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • kasey

      It didn't say they withheld evidence, it said because of new DNA evidence. It could mean that the technology wasn't available to accurately screen any evidence for DNA. Also, it does not say he's not guilty, it says that the evidence MAY have resulted in a different decision. I'm not saying he's guilty at all, but it does not really say he wasn't guilty of something.

      August 16, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • enfilmigult

      Well one, by being a prosecutor they're already swearing to do that, so it would be redundant. Two, what does that have to do with anything? Analysis of DNA evidence for trials didn't exist in 1985; nobody held anything back.

      August 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • svann

      Existing penalties only include possibly being fired, but often nothing happens. If they were liable to a perjury charge with jailtime then they would think twice.

      August 16, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John Irvine

    Sorry, typo – "re-read"

    August 16, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jimmymax

    CNN managed to tell us that whole story without saying how old he is now.

    August 16, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Socrates72

      Good job CNN!

      August 16, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marv

      I'd guess 57!

      August 16, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • vegan

      CNN wins again!

      August 16, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ann

    DA*N prosecutors. This is why there should NEVER EVER be a death penalty. Shouldn't be one anyway because it's a sin but this makes it all the more so.......

    August 16, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • vmaxnc

      Basing our lives on a book of fables and a completely unproven mystical being seems rather silly, don't you think? Actually, it's not even the myth or the fables, it's our interpretation of them, which is historically the most flawed process ever contrived.

      That being said, the death penalty isn't about punishment. It's about removing the trash from society. In this case, justice would not have been served, had this man been put to death. But there are many thousands of people who are guilty of heinous crimes beyond any doubt that should be permanently removed from society.

      August 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • clinky

      vmax, There are lots and lots of "unproven" things in life that we take on faith anyway, like love, freedom, and right and wrong. You're awfully high-handed where you say "justice would not have been served" if an innocent man had been put to death. How about saying justice would have been made a mockery of, instead?

      August 16, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nathan

      Without getting into the whole God debate, let me just say Christians are supposed to read the Old Testament too. If a person believes the Holy Bible to be the word of God, it means they believe the Old Testament is just as holy and just as much the word of God. In the Old Testament God killed or told others to kill way more times than he said "Thou shalt not". He also said "Eye for an eye" and that sort of thing. So to say the death penalty is a sin is a little silly now isnt it?

      August 16, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    This is why anyone who supports the death penalty is morally perverse. They think its ok for innocent people to die once in a while as long as most of the time the people are guilty.

    August 16, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dv

    It is odd that those who claim that "government is the problem" and favor less government are still willing to trust big government to get it right every time.

    August 16, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Andrew

    Way to go, Tennessee. You robbed a man of his life.

    August 16, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. huxley

    One of my favorite short stories by Piers Anthony was about a race of aliens who tried criminals under a system where essentially not only the criminal could be punished – the defense attorney also could end up with punishment, the prosecutor could end up with punishment, and even the judge in rare cases could end up with punishment. It seems like in some ways a fair and balanced system requires to some extent that risk of punishment is shared by all parties involved in the transaction of a criminal proceeding.

    This is especially true when the prosecution perhaps oversteps their bounds. In many death penalty cases, the prosecution has been found to withold evidence. People just shrug. But its a death penalty case. Perhaps a prosecutor who witholds evidence that might have proven a man innocent on a death penalty case, should be himself charged with attempted man slaughter for intentionally putting an innocent man in the position of facing the death penalty.

    August 16, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • alf

      Makes PERFECT sense....

      August 16, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. brian

    poor guy, i wish the best for him and that the rest of his days are lived out in peace.

    August 16, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. pelicansnout

    I believe you have my stapler.

    August 16, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • mamboman

      Umm..OK, but I'm going to burn the building down

      August 16, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sanjosemike

    Regrettably, in the days before modern forensics and DNA advances, including mitochondrial sequencing, there may be cases were CP verdicts were unreliable. This may or may not be one of them. But reasonable doubt is reasonable doubt. I wish him well.

    August 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve Martin

      Oh, Mike!!! I get damp between my thighs when you use industry jargon such as "CP"!! How super cool you must feel!!!

      August 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. unowhoitsme

    He deserves to be paid millions. Hope he wins the suit.

    August 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Officer Bob

    I really don't think this fat SOB needs to worry about gaining weight.

    August 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nickell

    They should give him 22 million dollars.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Coolius Unroolius

    The prosecutors should have their organs harvested to pay for their deeds.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
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