After spending 22 years on Tennessee’s death row for a murder he almost certainly did not commit (see earlier blog post), Paul House will not be released today as his supporters had hoped. In fact, it looks like the ailing inmate might not be freed anytime soon.
“If I were to order Mr. House released today, I would presume a state officer would come up and say, ‘You are under arrest for murder,’” U.S. District Court Judge Harry S. Mattice explained during this morning’s hearing in federal court.
Just last month, Judge Mattice declared House’s original trial unconstitutional and ordered the state to either retry him within 180 days or release him. Despite post-conviction DNA evidence proving House did not rape the victim—not to mention the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court determined no jury would convict him based on the evidence—Union County District Attorney Paul Phillips insists on retrying House for the 1985 murder of Carolyn Muncey.
A detention hearing in Union County is scheduled for June 6, at which time House will have an opportunity to post bail. But given House is facing a first-degree murder charge, the bail amount likely will be considerably more than the inmate’s mother can afford, meaning he likely will remain incarcerated at least until the outcome of his second trial.
“It’s just one let down after another,” Joyce House said after her son was wheeled out of the courtroom earlier today. For years, the inmate has used a wheelchair due to advanced multiple sclerosis, leaving him unable to walk, bath or even feed himself. That, however, did not stop the state from having his feet shackled in court today.
Because House is in such poor health, Phillips announced today that he does not plan to seek execution this time around: “We are not seeking the death penalty in the retrial of this case because of his present health, which was not a factor 20 years ago.”