Thursday, 8 February 2007

Paul House case update

Paul House case update:

Sarah Kelly has this article in Nashville Scene magazine, entitled "A Vicious Circle," with an update on the case of Tennessee death row inmate Paul House, which provided occasion last term for the US Supreme Court to establish a precedent for allowing post-conviction (and post-AEDPA) DNA testing, after House was earlier denied in federal district court and by a sharply-split US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The controversial Paul House case is now in the hands of the same federal judge who was unimpressed years ago with exonerating DNA evidence

...House was convicted in 1986 and sentenced to death for the murder of 29-year-old Carolyn Muncey in rural Union County. The prosecution argued at trial that House raped the victim and then bludgeoned her to death to keep from getting caught. The alleged rape was the only motive presented to the jury, and it was the aggravating factor used to justify sentencing House to death.

Years after his conviction, however, DNA testing proved he did not rape Muncey, and that the semen found on her nightgown in fact belonged to her husband, Hubert Muncey. In addition, it was discovered—and experts have confirmed—that the bloodstains on House’s blue jeans didn’t come from the crime scene after all, but from vials of blood collected during the investigation that somehow spilled on the suspect’s clothing. There also were new witnesses who claimed the victim’s hard-drinking, physically abusive husband tearfully confessed to murdering his wife during an argument.

But the new evidence failed to sway Judge Jarvis, who dismissed House’s habeas corpus petition. Then, in a highly controversial 8-7 ruling, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals narrowly denied the petition in 2004.

Last June, however, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed House’s likely innocence after reviewing the case, permitting him to pursue exoneration using post-conviction DNA evidence. In its opinion, the majority called his “A rare case where—had the jury heard all the conflicting testimony—it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror viewing the record as a whole would lack reasonable doubt.” ...
(Earlier posts on Paul House case here and here. US Sup. Ct. June '06 opinion in House v. Bell here (58-page pdf).)

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