Drawing the ire of federal judges, defense attorneys and legal onlookers, a Tennessee prosecutor announced at a hearing recently that the state plans to retry Paul House for a 1985 murder he has always maintained he didn’t commit. Mounting evidence in the case – including important DNA tests on evidence from the crime scene – points to House’s innocence. House spent 22 years on death row for the murder before his appeals finally led to his conviction being overturned. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case and ruled that “no reasonable juror” would convict House based on the current evidence. Then, last year, a federal judge ordered the state to retry House, who has chronic multiple sclerosis and is unable to bathe and feed himself without help.
“This is the first time in our history, so far as I know, that it has ever happened that the Supreme Court has made such a ruling and the state has gone forward to prosecute the guy anyways,” U.S. Circuit Judge Gilbert S. Merritt tells the Nashville Scene. The Nashville-based judge sits on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has reviewed the convoluted case several times over the years, as recently as last week. “Why, after all this evidence has poured in that House is innocent of the crime, does the state continue to so zealously defend the situation? The reason is because state prosecutors typically never admit error.”
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. (Nashville Scene, 06/26/08)
Read the Innocence Project’s friend-of-the-court brief in House’s Supreme Court case