Today, Judge Harry S. Mattice ordered the state of Tennessee to move forward with the retrial of Paul House by June 17 or House will be released. However, this order only means that the state must show that they are preparing for a retrial by this date and does not mean that a jury must be seated. A detention hearing is scheduled for June 6 to set bail for House, who will be charged again with the first degree murder of Carolyn Muncey in Union County.
House’s attorney, Stephen Kissinger, eloquently argued that the state should be barred from re-trying the case because of the state’s deliberate lack of compliance in commencing with a re-trial in the 180 day period set by the Judge in his ruling on December 20, 2007. During the 180 day period, the state made no effort to appoint Mr. House new counsel and prepare for trial but instead appealed the Judge’s decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals who responded five days after hearing arguments in unanimous agreement with the Judge’s ruling.
Today, Judge Mattice refused to acknowledge that the state had not complied with his earlier order and said that if the state demonstrates that a new trial is moving forward by June 17, though not specifying exactly what “moving forward” means, then the state would be considered compliant with his order.
So, what does this all mean? What it means is that on June 6, Paul House, along with newly appointed counsel, will appear in a Union County courtroom, and his bail will be set as he is charged with the murder of Carolyn Muncey. In today’s hearing, District Attorney General Paul Phillips, who will prosecute the case again, stated that he would not be seeking the death penalty but instead a life sentence.
Unfortunately, if Paul House is unable to make bail, he will continue to be incarcerated until the completion of a new trial which could last for months.
Paul House was in the courtroom today, shackled in his wheelchair and looking weaker and more frail. Joyce was allowed to sit beside him as they both heard the Judge’s order.
At the February hearing before Judge Mattice, the stage appeared set for House to be released to his mother’s care. In fact, Joyce House met for an hour with officials who would oversee the release in order to ensure that her home and her employment would allow Paul to be released to her custody.
But today, like so many times before when it seemed that Paul would finally go home, he instead left the courtroom in shackles and headed back to his cell at the special needs facility where he will remain until he is taken to court on June 6, saying, “ I love you, Mommy” as they rolled him away.
In defending his decision, Judge Mattice said he felt justice would not be served for the citizens of Tennessee or Carolyn Muncey if he released Paul House or if he barred the state from re-trying him.
But where is the justice if court after court keeps passing the buck and allowing the state to drag this case out, a state which clearly has no intention of ever acknowledging its mistake? Where is the justice for Carolyn Muncey when the real killer is still out there and hasn’t served a day in prison while Paul House has spent his adult life on death row?
Where is the justice for the citizens of Tennessee with the wrong man on death row and the state unwilling to admit an error while spending millions of dollars to incarcerate and re-try Mr. House?
Justice was not done today in Tennessee. But, this isn’t over. With every new hurdle comes a new opportunity for the injustice of this broken system to be revealed and for citizens to demand change. Though we are deeply disappointed with today’s outcome, we are more determined than ever to see this through. As Joyce House said today as she got in her car to drive back to Crossville alone, “We keep fighting because that’s what we have to do.”
Amen. Joyce. Amen.
Thanks to all who were able to attend today’s hearing. Your presence in the courtroom was greatly appreciated by Joyce and Paul. TCASK will begin planning the appropriate action in response to the latest developments in this case. Please look for future action alerts as we continue the struggle.
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