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. Ben A


    I felt that it was unfair that this article lacked nonsensical rants on guilt, unlike recent ones in memory.

    August 17, 2011 at 4:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dennis

    I bet the people judged him based on his looks. This goes to show that we as humanity are a complete failure. Not enough people are open minded individuals. If we do not start to see people as people regardless of looks, then we are bound to wipe each other out sooner or later. I would hate to think we are heading into the dark ages again, but it seems we are...

    August 17, 2011 at 4:56 am | Report abuse |
    • ts9p

      Curious as to why you are commenting on his 'looks'? No one else in this forum mentioned that...which makes me think that *you* think by the way he looks he might be guilty. Just a thought. I'm

      And to everyone else who feels sorry for him, just remember that because the prosecution drops the charges or declines to further prosecute does not mean he's not guilty. The standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" is a difficult one, and many MANY cases never go to court because the prosecution (and rightly so for the stability of our system) do not have enough evidence to show the jury or judge that the defendant is guilty...beyond a reasonable doubt. But altogether, many cases that never go to trial, the potential defendants very often are still guilty. I hope indeed that the DNA in this case did show a reasonable doubt...but that doesn't mean he didn't do it. Seems to me that *possibly* with his condition, the prosecution felt some compassion and figured that it was not worth pursuing and that he was suffering enough. Maybe, maybe not...lawyers, believe it or not, are people too. Really 🙂

      August 17, 2011 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
  3. Bill McStickers

    How do all of you know he didn't do it. Reasonable doubt does not equal innocent.

    August 17, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. HolyMolie

    Seems these headlines on this articles aren't right. It says: Update: Thriving at home after 13 years on death row with multiple sclerosis

    Someone would think he was let out because he has multiple sclerosis.

    August 17, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      I thought the same thing , too bad cnn editors didn't catch that. Good luck Mr House and also your Mother.

      August 17, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • aashen

      That was my thought before I read the article as well.

      August 17, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
    • AllyWally

      HolyMolie – I see where you're coming from but sometimes headlines are put that way to entice the reader into clicking or reading the article further, just like we all did... 😉 Yeah right okay...good job CNN...lol

      August 17, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • It'sMe

      I didn't think that.

      August 17, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • telloid

      They do that on purpose to make you read the article. Lame if you ask me, but necessary for media working in a capitalist environment.

      August 17, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. Kristin

    America's justice system is absolutely asinine, purely political, and just about the most flawed system in Western Civ.

    August 17, 2011 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Lee

      What absolute garbage that shows you know nothing about the American judicial system or the judicial of other countries either.

      August 17, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
    • MikeC

      Well it could be china or most other countries. You get sentenced to death and right from their you get brought out to the back and shot in the back of the head. No time for appeals or doubt to set in.

      August 17, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • HowardRoark

      Wow, that's probably the most ignorant opinion i've seen on CNN for a while. LOL

      August 17, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Observer1

      For those who think there are problems with the system, may I remind you of 2 chilling words – Casey Anthony.

      'nuf said.

      August 17, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • bluey

      I won't comment on it being the worst in western civ., but you are correct in saying that it is very flawed. Mike C...China is not western civ.

      August 17, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • AG

      My friend, do not be so judgemental about the US judicial system. I am assuming you have very little idea about the world outside US. What we have here is as good as it gets. We can always strive to make things better but let us not disparage what we have.

      August 17, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • telloid

      Don't be a fool

      August 17, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • novajosh

      Yes, of course the US judicial system is flawed. Reasonable doubt means nothing to a jury, just as long as someone pays for the crime.

      August 17, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • rightisright

      What a complete moron. My father did a stretch in a federal prison for something he never did, so I will be the first to say our system is seriously flawed. But even with it's flaws and BS it still beats the hell out of any other system out there. I hope this guy gets a huge settlement. An over zealous DA took this mans life away and now he likely only has a few years left, he should have to want or need for nothing for those few years.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      I am not sure if I would call our justice system the worst in the world but we have a lot of room for improvement. There has been so many men let off death row that were innocent. Our system has been about who has enough money to buy the best lawyer. So the rich get a different justice than the poor. And the really needs to be fixed. There is no amount of money that will cover the years he spent in jail. How do you pay someone for a lifetime lost?

      August 17, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Xerxes 2011

    We've imprisoned so many and have admitted to wrongful imprisonment, yet Casey Anthony, a Common Sense case, thrives on her daughter's death. America is feeding this horrible crime, by wanting to throw money at her to tell you something, anything. she'll more than likely write a 'tell all' book, yet the book will be 99.99% fabricated, only truth will be her name in it, might get changed too, so call it 100% and folks will buy the book, stocking her purse and make yourself accountable in knowing you're supporting a woman that killed her kid.

    August 17, 2011 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |

      who is casey anthony?
      never heard of her.

      August 17, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Langdon Alger

      My irony meter just exploded. The reason Casey Anthony went free was a lack of evidence. If you convict people without evidence, you wind up with people like Mr. House rotting in prison. Are you completely daft?

      August 17, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
    • steve

      I can not stress enough how idiotic your comment is. Our justice system has failed becuase the officers of the courts have failed. I would think we would error on the side of reason, when the facts don't add up you must acquit however in our system 99 out of 100 facts don't really matter. Don't be mad about casey anthony be mad the procutors brought her to court unprepared

      August 17, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • telloid

      do you trust the jury system or not? Casey wasnt guilty of first degree murder... the evidence wasnt there and the details didnt add up to premeditated murder. Neglectful death... maybe, but that's not what the prosecution charged her with and not what the jury had to decide against. Blame the prosecution for counting it being an open and shut case and overextending.

      August 17, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Name*adam

      it comes to a point that if you are poor and cant aford ,high profile lawyer chances are you will be guilty.Goodluck to the poor.

      August 17, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. HavingDoubts

    I have my doubts about whether Paul House is guilty or not. I read this article from CBS and there is a lot against him. If he is innocent, I wish him well. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/12/10/60minutes/main660438.shtml

    August 17, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
    • bluey

      How can you doubt DNA evidence? That's what got him off.

      August 17, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Having Stupid

      DNA = Evidence Evidence=DNA. Sorry, it doesn't get much easier than that to understand. If Person A was arrested for a crime, but DNA was found for..someone else, wouldn't it make sense to let Person A go? Trying to dumb it down to your level. Let me know if you'd like me to draw you a picture.

      August 17, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • telloid

      bluey – There is no proof of innocence in this article... just a suggestion of reasonable doubt. "New DNA evidence could" have led a jury to let him go. DNA evidence isnt ALWAYS 100%.

      August 17, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. Juan

    I'm sure the prosecutor during the trial was acting so certain and secured of this guy guilt even if not all the evidence was there to convict without reasonabel doubt. This will keep happening, I have learned the DA's do not care about guilt, they just care about convicting somebody, that's a proven fact. The only way this is going to stop is when prosecutors are held accountable for wrongful/deliberately wrongful convictions. The Innocent Project have proven innocence in hundreds of cases, has any of those prosecutors ever got even a reprimand? Nope. do they show regret? Nope. They're so arrogant that even when proven innocence by DNA, they still wouldn't admit that they messed up. tsk, tsk, tsk. some system we've got.

    August 17, 2011 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Seamus McDermott

      There are laws on the books that make it difficult or impossible to hold prosecutors and judges accountable for misconduct. Getting those laws off the books is a step that needs to be taken before we're going to see much improvement in that area.
      The best thing you can do to prevent this from happening to you is to inherit a few million dollars.

      August 17, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Juan

      That must be the reason why they could just accuse anybody they want, there are no repecursions when commiting a crime, that's what it is when you just want to convict some with little or no evidence just to increase his wins.

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

    America has not only Common Law (which includes medieval facts like "punitive damages", which allows the punishment of people in a civil process!), but also death penalty.
    This is the Third World.

    August 17, 2011 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
    • telloid

      third world has very little that resembles law at all. get your head out of your a$$. kiss the ground, you are in america... its a rare moment in history that averages joes such as yourself have so many rights.

      August 17, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  10. mamadeo

    hope his d- falls off

    August 17, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. hereIam

    Yes but the article reads "13 yrs on death row" when it is clearly put in the article that he spent 22 years on death row... Good, some one who actually Deserves freedom and was proven innocent uhh hmmm C. Anthony :(..

    August 17, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Tammt

      You might want to re-read. It says 22 years on death row-13 of them with MS.

      August 17, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  12. HPNIII

    Think what it must be like to be on death row and know you are innocent. America needs to rethink capital punishment as to my understanding there is no evidence that it reduces crime.

    August 17, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  13. Barry G.

    22 years?

    August 17, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. Barb

    Wishing Mr. House and his mother all the best.

    August 17, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  15. Kevin in Atlanta

    I'm sorry, but if I were on a jury hearing a case that could involve the death penalty, I would need to be 150% sure that the guy in front of me did what the prosecutor says he did.

    If there is any tiny lingering doubt in my mind about it, then I could not convict the person knowing they'd be sentenced to death.

    August 17, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
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