Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Judge orders death row inmate Paul House released

Judge orders death row inmate Paul House released
Freedom scheduled after hearing May 28


The decades-long court saga of convicted rapist and killer Paul House
took a dramatic turn Monday when a federal judge ordered the
condemned man's release from prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Harry S. Mattice Jr. ordered the inmate,
who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, released into the
custody of his mother after a May 28 hearing where the court will set
the conditions of his freedom.

"I'm thrilled that he's coming home," House's mother, Joyce House,
said. "He's going to get the medical attention he needs. I hate that
it has taken so long."

House's case is one of many across the nation thrown into doubt with
the advent and advancement of DNA evidence. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled that House was not given a fair trial because the jury
did not hear DNA evidence and other testimony that could have
exonerated him.

The high court sent the case back to the federal courts, where
Mattice last December ordered the state to retry House within 180
days or release him. The state appealed that order, and the case is
pending in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

House, 46, asked the judge in February to release him to his mother's
custody while appeals in his case continue.

During the February hearing, prosecutors argued that House, despite
his infirmities, was a flight risk and a danger to the public. But
Mattice disagreed, according to Monday's court order.

Prosecutors have vowed to retry House if their appeals fail and he is

But if House is retried, his attorney, Stephen Kissinger, said no
jury will convict him.

"There is no reasonable jury in this country that will convict him
knowing the facts as we know them to be" Kissinger said.

dna disproved rape

House has seen the precarious balance of justice since he was
sentenced to death for the murder and rape of Carolyn Muncey in Union
County, north of Knoxville, in 1985.

Muncey, a young mother of two, had disappeared while her children
slept. Her bludgeoned body was found at the bottom of an embankment
and her husband was the initial suspect.

But later, House, who had moved to Tennessee from Utah after serving
time in jail for aggravated sexual assault, became the prime suspect
and was arrested. He was sentenced to death in 1986.

Two decades later, DNA evidence — semen collected from Muncey's
nightgown and underwear — revealed House did not rape her. The DNA
belonged to her husband.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided that the evidence was strong enough
that a jury would not have convicted House.

House's incarceration has left him without a family, in poor health
and with no future, Joyce House said of her son.

"I mean Paul has told me numerous times that this has given him
hope," Joyce House said. "But he says for what? He says his life is
over. He's never going to get married. They have taken his whole life
for nothing."

House's release should have happened after the U.S. Supreme Court's
ruling, said Stacy Rector, the executive director of Tennessee
Coalition to Abolish State Killing.

"They've gone back and forth and his health is worse," she said.
"Maybe now he'll get the care he needs."

Contact Chris Echegaray at 664-2144 or cechegaray@tennessean.com.


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