Nearly 30 state lawmakers are urging Gov. Phil Bredesen to pardon Paul House, who remains on Tennessee's death row even after the U.S. Supreme Court determined a year ago that no reasonable juror would convict him given the evidence now available.
State Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, first asked the governor to free House in March, and then proposed a formal resolution asking for a full pardon, but to no avail. Since then, however, he's garnered bipartisan support for House, with 26 legislators from across the state recently signing a letter on his behalf. On Thursday, Turner will accompany Paul House's mother, Joyce House, at Legislative Plaza to present the letter to Bredesen.
"Governor Bredesen, we understand that the authority to grant pardons is one of the most serious and awesome responsibilities of your office," the letter states. "However, in the case of Paul House, we believe that it is warranted."
The governor's spokeswoman has previously told the Scene
it's Bredesen's policy to let such matters remain in the courts until all judicial remedies are exhausted.
House has spent 22 years on death row for the rape and murder of Carolyn Muncey in rural Union County. Although House has maintained his innocence all along, it wasn't until more than a decade after his conviction that DNA and other evidence surfaced pointing to the victim's husband as the likely killer. And although the Supreme Court agrees House is probably innocent, he still is on death row, dying from the degenerative disease multiple sclerosis.
"This letter is signed by a broad spectrum of Tennessee legislators, by Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, abolitionists and death penalty supporters," says Alex Wiesendanger, associate director of the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing. "They all believe that having Paul House on death row is a mockery of justice. I hope the governor will heed the call of the legislature and do the right thing."