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. db

    Being human means imprefections or we would be devine. Each of us has skeltons in our closets that we hope and pray never are found out by or family or friends. Sure we may have been punished for this or that but to be accused, convicted and punished for something that you did not do is wrong and should never happen. We only live once and to have even one day unjustly taken from us is terribly wrong and nothing can give it back.

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

    I wonder, if we could go though the court reports and learn how many lies were told just get this man convicted what would we think of the court syestem then. I don't think it is the system, it's the people who abuse it I've heard both prosecuting and defense lawyers say: I don't care if their client is guilty or not, it's their job to convince the jury of guilt/innocence and they will do what ever it takes. So you see; it's who ever can talk the best.

    August 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. justathought

    ===============@Skipper:=============== I don't know if you'll come back to this forum again (I haven't seen your SN before) but if you do, please read the article before you post; don't make an _______ of youself.

    August 16, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Paul

    Why would it take more than a day to clear his record and give him the millions he deserves now without a lawyer to take a 1/3. I apologize sir that America has come to this.

    August 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • R

      Because America prides itself on having a set of laws that helps lessen chaos. Unless you want anarchy, then a group of individuals need to study the law and be able to defend individuals by using the laws in this country. In America, we call these people "lawyers." Unless you think every person can understand the rules of criminal law, civil law, evidence, etc. I think we need lawyers. Also, this country is supposed to be a capitalist country. So, unless you expect the lawyers to work for free, after they have spent 4 years getting a degree and 3 additional years in law school, put in countless hours working for law firms, and neglected almost every part of their lives to practice law, a lawyer is going to get paid.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
    • R

      I apologize if your ignorance and bias towards the law profession has left you jaded. I am sure you would be able to represent someone against the state on your own

      August 17, 2011 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Christopher

      No, we don't expect them to work for free, R.... HOWEVER, it might be a good idea to nationalize the lawyer trade and make those lawyers all public servants, paid by the state.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
    • yannaes

      I live in Germany. Governmental controls are on lawyers here...No chasing the fire trucks, advertisements on T.V., ambulance chasers non-existant, and all seems well here. Paul, sorry for the mistake by the prosecution, but that is right Paul, they are lawyers as well. Obama, he is 1/2 white, he will see your plight and take care of your finances. He did for the down trodden banks in America.

      August 17, 2011 at 3:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Um, didn't the work of lawyers get him out to begin with. Eveyone hates lawyers- until they need one.

      August 17, 2011 at 6:30 am | Report abuse |
    • tifoso

      @yannaes – At one time, lawyers were not allowed to advertise. It was ruled by the S CT that lawyers have as much free speech right as anyone else. Before advertising, the big firms controlled the practice because they also had fee schedules which they enforced. Now, people can pick and choose. BTW, if you can prove a case of a lawyer chasing fire trucks or even having someone do it for the lawyer, you turn that lawyer in to the ethics board. That happens only in movies.

      August 17, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. Diane

    there's just no way to compensate this poor man from the life taken from him. Its so unfair. I wish him blessings.

    August 16, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • lolque

      Its terrible we need have the need to blame someone as opposed to finding the culprit

      August 17, 2011 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. Deej59

    All you have to do is read the comments after any article about a recent crime and you'll see why it's so bad. People have a mob mentality. They start demanding the execution of people who are just suspects, no guilt proven yet. It's an era when Nancy Grace's mob mentality makes her a celebrity. Sad.

    August 16, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christopher

      Casey Anthony's case espouses that greatly. Did she hid the body? Yes. Did she dump the body? Yes. Was there any evidence that she abused or murdered her child? HELL NO! In fact, accidental death was a better explanation than murder in that case, considering they couldn't find any blood pool or any other evidence save EXTREMELY LOW levels of chloroform in the trunk of her car, that could have come from rotting food and numerous other sources.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dick Hertz

    I'd use the money for Mechanics to pay the Jurors a visit.

    August 16, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. justathought

    ============@svann7:48 =================== very good suggestion, except both prosecuteor and defence should swear to integrity before and after a case is heard and if either is EVER (even long after a case has been heard) found guilty of false testimony in any way they should be debarred. After all they are holding a persons life in their hands.

    August 17, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
    • CT

      How can the prosecutor or the defense be found guilty of false testimony when THEY DO NOT TESTIFY? They present evidence to the jury and witnesses testify. Do you even have a clue how the legal system in this country works?

      August 17, 2011 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. keith

    i want to send him 20 dollars, i don't have much money, but it could get him some ice cold cokes in the sun. just a little something the he probably had very little of (if any) for 22 years.
    God bless you.

    August 17, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Joey

      Haha finally a real person makes a comment =) 22 years! How about a coke and a burger fresh off the grill.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Christine

      What an incredibly kind thing to say. After all this time unjustly held it's probably the little things that he appreciates the most. 🙂

      August 17, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  10. ducati

    Sorry that u were wrongly accused. Biggest fear of anyone is that will happen. Happy that u are out and doing better

    August 17, 2011 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jazzzzzzzz

    Psalm 23

    The Divine Shepherd

    A Psalm of David.
    1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
    2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
    he leads me beside still waters;*
    3 he restores my soul.*
    He leads me in right paths*
    for his name’s sake.

    4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,*
    I fear no evil;
    for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff—
    they comfort me.

    5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
    you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
    6 Surely* goodness and mercy* shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
    and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long.*

    August 17, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Why dont you keep your imaginary friends out of this?

      August 17, 2011 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jean Sartre

    The Innocents Project has been responsible for getting about 200 innocent people off death row so far, based upon DNA evidence; however, they only take special cases mainly where there actually is DNA and it is a major factor in the guilt or innocence of a person. I will leave it to your imagination regarding how many people our government, based solely on eyewitness – the most unreliable of all – testimony over the years, killed.

    I truly feel sorrow and empathy for this poor man... No amount of money can compensate him for what he has gone through, although it might help bring a measure of peace to his remaining days.

    Being an atheist, I do not believe in the Christian's pound of flesh; I just believe that if were are ever to begin to approach being the GREATEST NATION IN THE WORLD, we simply should not be giving our government the right to kill any of its citizens, no matter how atrocious their crime may have been.

    It just seems that the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness rings rather hollow, when in the 21st century we are still killing our fellow citizens…

    August 17, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  13. Morgan

    Nothing could ever compensate for that

    August 17, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  14. Ed B

    Hey, it's the guy from the movie "Office Space"!!! (Give me back my red stapler)......

    August 17, 2011 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. corruptjusticerulesamerica

    How could anyone give this poor guy 22 years back? He probably didnt have money for a halfway decent lawyer to defend against an over zealous prosecution team... american justice system never ceases to surprise me.

    August 17, 2011 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
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