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.
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.