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. ethan allen

    Sad tale of apparent wrongful conviction, but keep in mind that this gentleman is a convicted rapist.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • KeithTexas

      The problem with our puritanical heritage is that no one is ever forgiven. No matter what justice we give them or what else happens they are never forgiven.

      So, you good Christians think that because he was guilty of something at a different time that his wrongful imprisonment is okay.

      Advanced societies have much more lenient prison sentences and they are somewhat tied to the severity of the crime. Unlike our system where a hot check writer can get more time than someone convicted of second degree murder.

      August 16, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trae

      This is not about him being a rapist, think before you post!

      August 16, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • lacoaster

      What part of "before DNA evidence freed him" you do not understand?

      August 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Terre08

    Another backward southern state although he is probably lucky it wasn't Texas.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Skipper

    I have no sympathy for a CONVICTED RAPIST. Should be serving life. MS is too good a fate for him; I hope there' a hell, so he can rot in it.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Trae

      This is not about him being a rapist! Lets get that straight, please do not entertain us with your IGNORANCE!!!

      August 16, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • hiernonymous

      Hell is primarily a Christian belief. If you are a Christian, perhaps you could ponder the meaning of Christ's lesson on casting the first stone.

      August 16, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • God

      Leave it to a Christian to be so hateful. As God I can say safely Skippers a bad guy, so I'm banishing him to Hell.

      August 16, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Trae

    The guy is not being was not held as being a rapist, he is was being wrongly held for murder. Our legal system is a disgrace and is probably one of the corrupt ones in the world. The Judge, prosecutor, and anyone else who had him go to jail need to be severely dealt with. They need to go to jail for 22 years.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • ajtj

      You must not have traveled very much, if you can in good conscience posit that our legal system is one of the most corrupt in the world. Baring *select* countries in Western Europe, your statement is unequivocally false.

      August 16, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      "...most corrupt legal systems in the world"???? And you're the same person that told us all to think before we post?

      August 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nick

    does that's doesn't mean that he should be on death row for another crime that he didn't commit. you must not be familiar with our legal system.

    August 16, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Trae

    We have no sympathy for your ignorance. The guy was wrongly convicted of murder by people like you.

    August 16, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. nelson

    while you idiots are saying "ahhh hes a convicted rapist, i dont feel sorry for him" just remember that he served his punishment for that, he didnt deserve to serve 22 years on death row for a crime he didnt commit....and remember that while you are passing judgment on him, an actual murderer has gone unpunished for 26 years.

    August 16, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. *?(+

    Did it ever occur to anyone that this might not have been the first wrongful conviction for this guy? When it comes to certain crimes, there is enormous pressure on the local police to arrest and convict someone...anyone...to ensure the people's tax money is being well spent to protect them.

    August 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Joseph

    Mr. House. Close this chapter in your life, sir. You are part of a plan that cannot wait for tomorrow. That inner-flame has been kept alive after all your trials...for a reason. There's no more feeling sorry, guilty, remorse, or even angry about how you were dissed. It is now all about how you are going to life your today. Take courage of your unwanted thoughts and do for the good of others...you will see; but it wont be with your eyes. Good luck, sir.

    August 16, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. joey bones

    90 % of all your sentences start like a 3rd grader wrote it... and there ain't a damn thing anyone can do about the situation so quite belly aching about the topic.

    August 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. JAY

    Tough one for me.... I'm about as right-wing as you can get but don't know about the death penalty. If you're wrong one in a billion times, isn't that one too many?

    On the other hand, rapists and child molestors are often worse than murderers. These people plan their crimes, and these crimes often ruin lives in a way that is just short of death. Seems to me that life sentences with HARD LABOR is the way to go.....

    August 16, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. karma

    While I do feel bad for ANYONE wrongly convicted, I have NO sympathy for rapists, glad he can't do it someone else.

    August 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. John

    For a state that embraces jesus so much, it is rather odd that they have the death penalty to begin with. I guess that includes most of the south.

    I am sure that jesus would be smiling at those good christians who are all for the state killing human beings.

    August 16, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. theraven1971

    It was probably people who thought like you that convicted him in the first place. "Oh, he's a convicted rapist so he must have done this crime too!"

    August 16, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. John

    Thomas More made perfect sense about the death penalty in his book "Utopia" 500 years ago, and it still makes sense today.
    No one should be given the death penalty (as some enlightened people commenting here think) for anything but murder, especially rapists.

    Even though much of the book is outdated and unrealistic today, his insistence on what is rational in capital punishment still stands today.

    August 16, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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