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. Anthony Quatroni

    He has to APPLY for executive clemency? You would think Governor Haslan would have this man on the fast track for that, since he's innocent. WHY does he have to wait? Are they hoping maybe he'll die and then they don't have to give him a penny? What a wonderful justice system we have in this ratbag country we live in.

    August 16, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • daryx

      Of course he has to wait. He only waited 22 years!

      August 16, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • american citizen

      You're right the American Judicial system is messed up and it isn't only in this frame of reference.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • tokyo joe

      give him a million dollars a year he was in prison

      August 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • MaryAnn in VA

      It's all about the money and many govenor's have done the same thing. There are numerous former inmates in Illinois, Virginia, Texas and other states who are waiting for exceutive clemency. The prosecuters were guilty of misconduct and in some cases withheld evidence to get a higher conviction rate in thier counties. I have always been pro capital punishment but after reading stories like this I have turned against capital punishment and firmly believe there have been innnocent people possibly put to death.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ian Kolmer

      A million dollars a year is a bit steep seeing as how we are already a trillion dollars in debt. Besides what will a man who cant walk and eats Arbys all day do with 22 million dollars? He can live comfortably with 5 million easy. Its supposed to compinsate not give the man a mansion and a bently.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugo

      Ian, perhaps $1M is high but the government screwed up. Even if the DA played straight, the ability to clear him based on DNA evidence existed many years before he was freed. How about $1M for each year the government sat on its "hands" and didn't find out if he was really guilty or not?

      August 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • RJEN

      Nobody says that he is inocent.
      The Supreme Court said that there was evidense that MAYBE would have changed the verdict
      If more than one person commits a crime and 20 years later a new technology says that the ONE evidence of DNA is not from the convicted person then that doesn't make him inocent.
      Yes I believe in the INOCENCE PROJECT.
      What we don't hear is the number of DNA matches that confirm the original conviction.

      I have been a DOC volonteer for 12 years in 3 states and I also volunteer at local jails.
      AT Louisiana State Penatentury at Angola I hear the same stories of inocence: "some other dude" or "she lied" etc.
      My presence is not about legal, justice, sentences or penal issues but I still hear the same stories.
      My efforts are to help men have the best life they can, right where they are.
      I and my compares show up and sometimes someone is ready to listen and try to change.
      Life is about dealing with the way things are and not waiting for a Supreme Court decision.

      BTW (by the way) when is the last time YOU visited the sick or imprisoned?
      You can make a difference just by showing up.

      August 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. svann

    How do you convict an innocent man in the first place? There could only be 3 possibilities – 1. perjured testimony, 2. a jury that did not understand what "proof beyond reasonable doubt" means, or 3. a court that selectively blocked evidence from being presented. If its 2 or 3 we need to fix that. If its 1 then that person needs to be charged.

    August 16, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chaos

      Testimony doesn't need to be perjury to be false or misleading. Plus there are many other reasons a verdict can be incorrect.

      August 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheMovieFan

      There are other reasons. Eyewitness testimony is not 100% reliable since people have chosen the wrong suspect from lineups. It's not perjury when the eyewitness truly believes that the wrong person is the culprit.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacob Y

      I'm not sure if it applies to this case, but eye witness accounts are notoriously faulted. Methodology of line ups, failure to pursue other lines of inquiry... there are many more reasons of how someone can be wrongly convicted.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • SurRy

      Check out the Innocence Project website. Those stories are only a drop in the bucket. Unless one is involved in the criminal "justice" system you'd never believe what goes on. It happens more often than anyone will ever admit.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • svann

      Those reasons are mostly "not proven beyond reasonable doubt". And if a witness testifies that he/she is certain that its him, but is not, then that IS perjury even if it is not malicious. Prosecutors have been known to coerce truthful witnesses to fudge their testimony to ensure a conviction. They think they are doing the right thing, but its still perjury.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob F

      Consider Casey Anthony. There is plenty of reasonable doubt that thankfully led to her exoneration. However, in the public sphere, there was plenty of people (largely those uneducated to the case, however) who called for her to be found guilty.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • shachar

      DNA testing is markedly better and has been the retesting of old evidence has released many of those innocent men. In some states it is now mandatory that, after a conviction the DNA should be retested. In many states, this is not the case and the accused has to fight tooth and nail to get evidence retried. Some governors go along with it and others do not.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nimrod

    Why? If you read the article, nowhere does it say that the DNA evidence exonerated him, only that it COULD have created doubt in the mind of the jurors. That's a bit from PROVING he is innocent.

    August 16, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pragmaclast

      The US Supreme court said he couldn't have been found guilty if this evidence was available. The prosecutor decided they couldn't convict based on the new evidence. What else do you need? Or would you rather live in a dream land where the prosecutor is always right?

      Pray that no one ever points the finger at you.

      August 16, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      He doesn't have to prove himself innocent. It's up to the state to prove him guilty. The fact that you think the other way around is a clue to why the courts get things wrong.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • H8w8ting

      Good Point Nimrod... But look at the big picture. If the DA thought there was still a case, they would have went ahead with the 2nd trial. The fact that the DA dropped the charges means they had no case.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • GeneK

      In addition to the DNA that established that the semen found on the victim's body belonged to her husband, the jury was also not allowed to hear that the victim's husband had confessed to killing his wife "accidentally."

      August 16, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • svann

      The supreme court ruled that he needed a new trial because he could have been proven innocent. Then after that the prosecutor decided that based on the dna he really was innocent.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • J. Mark Lane

      You seem to have chosen a good handle.

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

      Pragmaclast, this is what the article said that the supreme court ruling said: "U.S. Supreme Court ruling that new DNA evidence COULD(my emphasis) have led a jury to acquit him in the 1985 murder of Carolyn Muncey" which is a far cry from saying he COULDN'T have been convicted if the DNA evidence had been used. The article also doesn't say that the prosecutor decided that they COULDN'T convict, only that there was now significant reasonable doubt. I am not saying that someone who is initially CHARGED with a crime should have to prove that they are innocent, but I am pointing out that everyone here is jumping to the conclusion that since he has been released due to a Supreme Court Ruling that necessarily means he was innocent in the first place. That is not the case. There is also nothing in the story that would have let me know that the woman's husband claimed to have killed her.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • phoenix1920

      Nimrod, NO trial proves one is innocent, even if you are found "not guilty." Not guilty does not mean you are innocent–it means there was at least a reasonable doubt so the jury cannot find you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.. Thus, there is not one person who has gone thru our justice system who was "proven innocent." Pointing out that he was not "proven innocent" is the same as saying every single person in the US could be guilty of murder because none of us were likewise proven innocent.

      August 16, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chaos

    Conservative clamored for him to be put to death.. FACT.

    August 16, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. poiuytre

    He better lay off those Arby's beef and cheddar cheese sandwiches. His goal of gaining weight after prison is succeeding beyond his wildest dreams!

    August 16, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pragmaclast

      Leave the poor guy alone. Eating an Arby's Beef & Cheddar is probably the only good thing that happens to him on any given day.

      August 16, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Freshies

    Enjoy the freedom, get out there and enjoy life! So much you can see in the world and Mr. House you should have all your expenses paid for by the state, I would demand it.

    August 16, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bump Thumoer

      No...WE should demand the prosecutor pay his expenses, not the State/

      August 16, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. AaronT3

    Another reason the death penalty should be banished. I cannot understand the logic of people who want to "get their man" so badly they are ok with INNOCENT people also dying in the process. Such a perverted sense of justice!

    August 16, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phred

      No, another reason that prosecutorial misconduct should be abolished.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacob Y

      It's a lot easier to fix the death penalty then it is to stop misconduct by all parties involved. Interesting that Phred has already determined the prosecutor is at fault here. Where we you 22 years ago?

      August 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tim

    Lesson, stay away from trouble and trouble will stay away from you. Most people who've been wrongly convicted were out doing things they shouldn't have been doing, buying/selling drugs or some other unsavory act which put them in a high crime area. This is the real reason why there have been some people wrongfully convicted of a crime.

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

      Wow, but you are amazingly ignorant. Well done.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • susan

      not true – just shows what you know – which is nothing. There are many cases where the person was working yet convicted of a crime because the jury just didn't care about doing the right thing.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • SurRy

      Not true at all. You have no idea what you are talking about.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lawdawg

      I second the others who replied to your post! You possess a staggering lack of insight, it really seems like a miracle that you were able to log on a computer and find this website!

      August 16, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sylvie

      It is this type of reasoning that causes such travesty in the judicial system. We all hope your not part of the Criminal Justice System tim, we really do. Unfortunately many in the criminal justice system have matching narrow minds like this.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. AaronT3

    Sorry I just vented on my previous post without acknowledging Paul House. Paul, check out Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with host Guy Fieri, and take a trip to some of the featured eateries. Dude they are GOOOOOOOOD!!!

    August 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. blueskies

    this article failed to mention that paul house was a paroled rapist. sort of important, I think

    August 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. susan

    Since the Supreme Court ruled that before an inmate on death row can be put to death, DNA testing must be done – if there is DNA. To date – over 200+ death row inmates have been exonerated thanks to DNA. There are many reasons someone is wrongly convicted – cops, prosecutors, judges, jurors – all who do a half a– job without a care about the impact a wrong decision can have on a person. This does not take into consideration those who do the testing may do so in a careless manner.

    August 16, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Brian

    sooo your saying that this guy has that mustache and those glasses and hes innocent? whaaaat.

    August 16, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rick Horn

    Ok, let's go.

    August 16, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MaryAnn in VA

    The fact that this man has waited 22 yrs to be proven innocent and now has to wait for compensation is ridiculous and disgraceful.

    August 16, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John Irvine

    @Pragmaclast. "The US Supreme court said he couldn't have been found guilty".

    If you re-red the article it says "the supreme court found that the DNA evidence could have led a jury to acquit him". Big difference!

    August 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
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