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. Nina

    Bravo and the best to you, Mr. House.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. raven

    To be released from a cell just to be a prisoner in his own body and mind is a torture I cant imagine. I hope they compensate him while he still has the will to do the things that could fulfill him if thats even possible .Best wishes to him and his.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Eleanor

    It's because of articles such as these that we should end the death penalty.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      The same DNA used to say he didn't could be used to prove someone else did do it. No need to eliminate the DP.

      August 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • gager

      The death penalty should be applied only when guilt is beyond all doubt.

      August 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      Moot point. Even if he were not on death row, he'd still be serving life in prison for Capital Murder. While the potential for unnatural death may have been ever present, the fact that he was locked up remains unchanged.

      August 16, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      Brian, are you really that stupid? If this guy had been executed, he could not have been freed upon belated acquital. There is no fixing things when someone has been wrongly executed.

      August 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I agree. Yet another case where an innocent person was nearly put to death for a crime they did not commit.

      August 16, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • baatman74

      Hey, Patrick! Brian was talking about DNA in general, his, or anyone else, don't be so quick to condemn... Take a break and stick to the topic...

      August 16, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • svann

      Thats not the point Brian. Even with modern science innocent people still can be convicted. Just because we have dna evidence as a tool does not eliminate that possibility.

      August 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brian Berry

    U are an innocent man......you may come over to my house anytime to say hello and have some Romainian cooking.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr Perry Fisher

      Iam sure that you will promptly poison him

      August 16, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lee

    Congrats on your recovery...However no torture you've endured will match the one affronted by Arby's...

    August 16, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tony Bowling

    I find it hard to even conceive this extent of injustice and unnecessary suffering: Not just 22 years of incorrect imprisonment but 22 years on death row and 13 of that with MS! I thought at first he was being released on compassionate grounds. I know I am basically repeating what the article states but it warrants repeating! So who is responsible for this? And it is not "the system" it is a person or persons.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kat

      do you have any idea how much $$ the MS meds cost? I think it is at least $2000 per month (I have insurance to cover my MS meds, so might be a little off on my number). That is around $24K per year, and that is IF and only IF the meds work.

      People would be up in arms for spending that much money on a convicted killer on death row. However, since he was innocent, we all gasp at why the taxpayers wouldn't pay for something like that.

      August 16, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alexander Kudryk

      I hear marijuana works very well for MS, better than most of the poison the Pharma Cos. gives people...Too bad he lives in on of the many back asswards states that still imprisons people for up to a year for simple marijuana posession.

      August 16, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. chris

    poor guy. Looks like a nice guy too. Just in the wrong place at the wrong tim.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ryan

    Terrible!! when stuff like that happens, I believe they should be compensated well by the state that put him there.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin in Atlanta

      I believe most states do have a compensation program or whatever for wrongful imprisonment. I think in GA it's about $50K for every year you spent in jail.

      I could be completely off in that number. However, no amount of money can make up for spending a good half of your life in prison...

      August 17, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  9. Drome

    We are no better than we were 30,000 years ago. Sad. Hopefully this man will find some happiness before he dies. Good luck Paul. Sorry your society utterly failed you.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee

      Actually society didn't fail him. It made a mistake, yes, and one that we should regret, but in the end justice prevailed.

      August 17, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin in Atlanta

      @Lee – How did justice prevail? It took 22 years to free a man that was wrongfully imprisoned, and the actually murderer is still running around in society.

      I'd say justice completely failed this one...

      August 17, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  10. Joe

    For all of the pain and suffering you have endured you never gave up hope. God bless you sir and may you be free from fear until your eternal reward.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      Fairy tales won't compensate this man for what he endured.

      August 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • mj11

      Joe-maybe god should have thrown him a bone during his stay in jail.

      August 16, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Killbox 1 Alpha

      So god let him suffer in prison for a crime he didn't commit, then is allowing him to suffer from a debilitating disease only so that he can reward him after he dies? How utterly stupid are you?

      August 16, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • baatman74

      Come on Killbox 1 Alpha, the person has an opinion, just like you. I was about to make the same question that god is certainly cruel for this, but, I was going to leave intact the poster's pride in his belief... Shame on you!

      August 16, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mj11

    Great for him, but they should really rethink the Arby's diet.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SDCyclist

    Now... think about all the men and women currently sentenced to death who have terrible lawyers who can't get DNA testing done. The ones who will be killed even though they're innocent because time will run out. Then, think about the hundreds and hundreds of people that have already been killed even though they were innocent. Then think about our justice system that allows people who are actually murderers to walk free. If after considering all that you honestly believe the death penalty is morally right, considered justice, and fair and impartial then I pity you. We're a country of over-emotional barbarians bent on blaming anyone no matter the cost. Abolish the death penalty, America. It's evil and completely un-American.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • phil

      agreed

      August 16, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Your post is passionate and well stated. It is a sad fact that a key societal aspect we share with Iran and North Korea is that the state loves to execute people.

      August 16, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. rearingeddie

    22 years? I can imagine the total amount of taxpayers dollars that was used to pay for his imprisonment. Funny how lately more and more people are being released now that sophisticated forensic tools are being used and proves their innocence. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time should absolutely NOT be justifiable for being imprisoned for something you did not do. Shows at what cost layers will go to win a case and jurors who just want to get the hell out of jury duty (who would want to do it? Civic duty doesn't pay the bills).

    August 16, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dustin Shadbolt

    I couldn't imagine waiting 22 years knowing you were innocent but knowing no one would listen to you. I couldn't imagine waking up day after day for 22 years knowing that you were just another guy scheduled to die. I couldn't imagine knowing that I now had an execution date or that some judge and 12 people I have never met decided to end my life. I also couldn't imagine going through 13 years of MS while locked up in a cell for 23 hours a day.... I would gladly invite this man into my home and help him anyway I could especially since it is the American way to help our fellow man. I don't agree with the death penalty. It's barbaric in my book to have 12 people decide someones life and move on.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tim

    Think of all the innocent victims who have died horrible, unspeakable deaths. No thanks on abolishing the death penalty for people we know are guilty. As for Mr. House we don't know for sure if he's innocent or guilty as there's never been a trial containing the DNA evidence.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cultural

      "Think of all the innocent victims who have died horrible, unspeakable deaths. No thanks on abolishing the death penalty for people we know are guilty."
      Huh?? So let me get this straight: that murderers sometimes go free is supposed to be the excuse for executing innocent people?? Talk about the unspeakable death of victims...

      "As for Mr. House we don't know for sure if he's innocent or guilty as there's never been a trial containing the DNA evidence."
      Which is exactly why he should never have been on the death row in the first place! I might be against the death penalty, sure – but if you cannot agree that we have to be 100% sure before we execute other people then I am afraid the executioner/our society is as guilty of murder as the murderers we execute.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
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