Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Good news

Paul House is finally, finally a free man. Prosecutors drop charges against former TN death row inmate. I've written about his case before here, here, and here.

House was originally convicted of murdering Carolyn Muncey in 1985. The prosecution's theory at the time was that he murdered her in connection with a sexual assault. The sexual assault theory was based on the presence of semen. But sometime in the 90s, DNA testing was finally done on that semen and we learned that the semen belonged to the victim's husband. So much for the sexual assault theory. Amazingly, prosecutors managed to hang on to Mr. House's conviction for another few years, then were able to keep him in jail for years even after his conviction was reversed. He was finally released on bond in September, still awaiting a new trial.

In the meantime, more DNA testing was done on a hair found clutched in the victim's hand. Once upon a time, the prosecutor promised he would drop the charges against House if that hair was not a match. Well, the hair wasn't a match, but the charges didn't go away. Finally, today, the prosecutors have acknowledged what all the rest of us have known for years: there is no way in hell they can convict this guy on the evidence as it stands today. Not his semen. Not his hair. Not his blood under her fingernails. Not his saliva on cigarette butts at the scene.

Of course, the prosecutors can't just let him go. No, they have to let him go while making mournful statements about how they're just sure he's involved. Sadly, they say, reasonable doubts have been raised to show that he did not act alone and we can't be sure what exactly his role in the killing was. Must they really take that parting shot? Can't they just say, "Our original theory was proven wrong, we have compelling physical evidence that points away from Mr. House, so we can't in good conscience pursue these charges against Mr. House any longer." Why do so many prosecutors have a physical inability to utter the words, "I made a mistake. I was wrong." It really isn't that hard and it doesn't hurt nearly as much as they fear it will.

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