Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tennessee Man Cleared After 20 Years on Death Row

Prosecutors in Tennessee dropped all pending charges against Paul House this morning, finally ending his two-decade struggle to clear his name. House was convicted in 1986 of a crime he always said he didn’t commit, and served two decades on death row before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that he was entitled to a new hearing. He has been free since last July while a new trial was pending. The Innocence Project has consulted with House’s lawyers on forensic issues, and Co-Director Peter Neufeld said today that the case is “a profound reminder that our system of justice must give people every reasonable opportunity to prove their innocence.”

“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.”

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