Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Death Penalty Appeal

The Supreme Court today agreed to hear a Tennessee death penalty case to resolve the issue of when an inmate has the right to have a court consider DNA evidence.

"This will be the first time the Supreme Court considers the impact of DNA evidence on the constitutional right to a fair trial," said Nina Morrison, an attorney with the Innocence Project in New York. "The potential implications are significant." Morrison said that her project is handling about 100 cases involving prisoners who want a chance to prove their innocence.

The death row inmate in the case, Paul House, wants a new trial. DNA tests confirmed the semen inside the murder victim was not his, but her husband's:

House, a convicted sex offender, was accused of sexually assaulting and killing a neighbor in 1985. He was convicted of Carolyn Muncey's murder, but later DNA tests, which were not widely available at the time, revealed that semen on Muncey's underwear and nightgown came from her husband.

The 6th Circuit split 8-7 last year against House. One of the dissenting judges wrote:

"I am convinced that we are faced with a real-life murder mystery, an authentic 'who-done-it' where the wrong man may be executed," ...."Was Carolyn Muncey killed by her down-the-road neighbor Paul House, or by her husband Hubert Muncey?" Gilman said. "At the end of the day, I am in grave doubt as to which of the above two suspects murdered Carolyn Muncey. I am also puzzled as to why more of my colleagues are not similarly in doubt."

< Jury Acquits Health South's Richard Scrushy | 13 CIA Agents Wanted All Over Europe >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Re: Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Death Penalty App (none / 0) (#1)
    by roy on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:38 PM EST
    There's a bit more about House's case here. Enough to convince me that House has, indeed, been screwed over. I'm fuzzy on some legal stuff though, maybe somebody can conveniently educate me. What exactly is the obstacle to having the new evidence considered? Did House run out of appeals and now needs to meet some stricter standard to get a new hearing?