News 05.12.09

Paul House Fully Cleared in 1986 TN Death Row Conviction; Case is “a profound reminder that our system of justice must give people every reasonable opportunity to prove their innocence”

Contact: Eric Ferrero;

eferrero@innocenceproject.org

; 212-364-5346

(HUNTSVILLE, TN; May 12, 2009) – A local District Attorney in Tennessee today dropped all charges against Paul House based on substantial evidence of his innocence. House was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1986.

 

In a 5-4 decision in June 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that House was entitled to a new hearing based on evidence that he might be innocent. The Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law, filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case.

Additional DNA testing and investigation of witnesses from the crime further showed that someone else committed the crime, and House was released from prison in July 2008 to await retrial. Today’s decision to dismiss the case based on DNA test results and other evidence fully clears him in the case.

Following is a statement from Peter Neufeld, Co-Director of the Innocence Project:

“In the three years since the U.S. Supreme Court stepped into this case and sent it back to the trial court, substantial additional DNA testing and further investigation have shown that he is innocent. Each time a layer of this case was peeled away, it revealed more evidence of Paul House’s innocence.

“The Supreme Court was right to make sure all of the evidence was fully considered in this case. The five justices who ruled in Paul House’s favor had the wisdom to recognize that there was enough evidence of his innocence to allow a full hearing and more investigation – which ultimately proved he did not commit this crime. This is a profoundly important legal principle, but it also saved Paul House’s life. This case should give the Supreme Court great pause, and it should cause them to look more closely at cases like this.

“Before the U.S. Supreme Court took this case, several courts denied Paul House a hearing to look at all of the new evidence collected since the original trial. Procedural barriers should not keep people from being able to prove their innocence. Paul House isn’t the first person on death row who was blocked from being able to prove his innocence for years, and he might not be the last. Right now, attorneys for Troy Davis in Georgia are trying to get the Supreme Court to allow a hearing where, for the first time, a judge can evaluate persuasive evidence that he may be innocent. Like Paul House before him, Troy Davis has been turned away by several lower courts even though he has never had a hearing on strong evidence that he may be innocent.

“Paul House’s case is a profound reminder that our system of justice must give people every reasonable opportunity to prove their innocence.”


Read background on House’s case at the U.S. Supreme Court

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House is currently represented by Assistant Public Defender Dale Potter, along with co-counsel Linda Kenney Baden (a New York-based attorney who has been assisting Mr. Potter with forensic issues in the case on a pro bono basis).  During Mr. House’s federal post-conviction proceedings, he was represented by Stephen Kissinger of the Federal Defender’s Office and George Kendall of Holland & Knight LLP. The Innocence Project has advised House’s legal team on DNA-related issues.

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