Archive for May, 2008
As expected, there has been a significant amount of media reaction to yesterday’s hearing.
Kerry Haymaker , a criminal defense attorney, said the court rulings soften the prosecution.
“Their case becomes very, very weak,” he said. “It sounds like the evidence in the case will be under greater attack now than way back then … especially after the Circuit Court’s ruling. But more importantly, it’s a waste of resources and a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Read more from the Tennessean by clicking HERE.
“If the state does everything they say they’re going to do, I would consider that to be in substantial compliance,” the judge said. “Is it not draconian … to release someone who the state contends committed murder? Is it just?”
“Why is it draconian?” Kissinger responded. “The state was given 180 days – six months – to retry Mr. House.”
Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel by clicking HERE.
There has also been a significant amount of news video coverage.
Watch coverage from News Channel 2 by clicking HERE.
Watch covearge from News Channel 4 by clicking HERE.
Watch coverage from News Channel 5 by clicking HERE.
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.
On Wednesday, May 28 at 10:00 a.m. at the Federal Courthouse in Nashville, Courtoom 874 on the 8th floor (located at the corner of Broadway and 9th Avenue South just beside the Frist Center for the Visual Arts), a hearing will be held to determine the conditions of Paul House’s release after serving 22 years on Tennessee’s death row for a crime new evidence indicates he did not commit.
On May 7, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with Judge Harry S. Mattice’s ruling that the state either re-try House in 180 days or release him. Though the state plans to re-try House, his deteriorating health and his unjust incarceration for over 20 years demands that he should be released to his mother’s care while he awaits retrial.
TCASK needs you to be present in the courtroom to demonstrate to the Tennessee Attorney Generals Office and to Judge Mattice that the citizens of Tennessee want Paul House released.
Because of your prayers and work, we are closer than ever before to getting Paul House the justice he deserves. We need your presence tomorrow to see this journey through.
If you have questions, please call the TCASK office at 615-256-3906 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
As most of you know, on May 28th, Judge Harry Mattice will set the conditions for the release of Paul House to his mother Joyce’s care. After over 22 years of life on death row and wheelchair bound because of multiple sclerosis, Paul House is set to go home. It remains unclear if he will be released the day of the hearing or perhaps a few days later, but regardless, his release is imminent.
On May 7, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with Judge Mattice’s earlier ruling that the state either re-try Paul House in 180 days or release him. Union County District Attorney General Paul Phillips says that he is preparing for a re-trial; however, there is no evidence to justify the cost or time of a trial.
TCASK will keep you informed about next week’s hearing. After all the prayers, work, tears, and time, Paul House is on the road to freedom.
On Thursday, May 8, the Memphis TCASK chapter hosted an advanced screening of the new documentary “At the Death House Door,” directed by Steven James and Peter Gilbert. The film, produced by the Independent Film Channel, focuses on two individuals, Carroll Pickett and Carlos De Luna. Pastor Carroll Pickett served as prison chaplain of the infamous “Walls” unit in Huntsville. During his 15 year career at Huntsville he oversaw the executions of 95 death row inmates, including that of Carlos De Luna. De Luna’s case is one of the most compelling cases of a likely innocent individual being executed.
Pickett serves as a fascinating subject for a documentary. The Reverend was pro-death penalty as he began serving as chaplain at Huntsville. While the job was emotionally tolling, he believed he was taking part in something that was right. Over time, his sentiment transformed. He attributes his change to witnessing the executions of young men, the mentally retarded, and those with mentally illness (amongst many other problems with the death penalty in Texas). His transformation culminated in the case of Carlos De Luna. On December 7, 1989, the state of Texas executed Carlos De Luna. De Luna was executed for the crime of a man with very similar appearance, Carlos Hernandez. I will not get into the details of De Luna’s case or his relationship with Pickett. My description would not be worthy of the power of the film, i.e., see this documentary.
“At the Death House Door” was shown at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, TN to a crowd of nearly 50. Afterwards we held a brief discussion on the film and the topic matter it presented. Many in the audience were emotionally impacted by the personal stories of Pickett and De Luna. Although we work against the death penalty as a public policy, the personal stories of those who experience it directly are unforgettable. Although there were some differing opinions amongst the audience, they were all in agreement that a person is never too old to develop a new understanding; just ask Carroll Pickett.
The film will be shown on the Independent Film Channel on May 29 at 9 PM ET.
Tennessee’s State Funding Board has heard from experts that there will be a revenue shortfall between $271 and $380 million dollars. “State officials have been told to expect to cut up to $380 million more in spending before the fiscal year ends in June.” This news prompted TCASK members Harry Simpson of Nashville and Steve Reddick of Oak Ridge to write their local papers because they both believe that the state is spending far too much money on one area of public policy.
Read Harry’s letter in the Tennessean HERE.
“For years, experts have known that the death penalty’s costs are exorbitant. Maryland found that the death penalty cost taxpayers at least $186 million more in prosecuting and defending capital murder cases over two decades than would have been spent without the threat of execution and has executed a total of five people.”
Read Steve’s letter in the Oak Ridger HERE.
“And I’m not suggesting that abolishing the death penalty would solve all (or even many) of our state’s budget woes. But abolition would certainly free up dollars to better address the root causes of crime and to help crime victims and their families. That, to me, is an investment worth making.”
(Portions of this reflection written by Stacy Rector are taken from “Pizza Resistance in Tennessee” in Hospitality (August 2007), a publication of the Open Door Community in Atlanta, Georgia)
One year ago—May 9, 2007—the state of Tennessee executed Philip Workman for the death of Memphis police officer, Lt. Ronald Oliver, who was killed in a shootout following the armed robbery of a Wendy’s restaurant. Evidence in the case indicated that though Workman was guilty of the armed robbery, he was not guilty of shooting the police officer, who was most likely killed by “friendly fire.”
Philip Workman had six execution dates set and was moved to death watch four different times during his incarceration on Tennessee’s death row. The final time Workman went to death watch he was asked what he wanted to eat for his last meal. Workman requested that a homeless person be given a vegetarian pizza. He didn’t ask for lobster or steak or chocolate cake. He didn’t ask for one thing for himself. His last act—his last meal—he gave to someone else, to a homeless stranger, someone most rarely consider on their best day, must less their last day.
The state refused to deliver the pizza. The reason: the state could not use taxpayer money for such a charitable purpose. So with an empty belly but lips full of prayer, Philip Workman was strapped to a gurney, and after 17 agonizing minutes, breathed his last. The state had taken his life, and yet…
The pizza began showing up. Donna Spangler, a Nashville resident and some of her friends, donated 150 pizzas–$1,200 worth—to the Nashville Rescue Mission. Linda Carter, a member of Second Presbyterian Church, Nashville, took nine large pizzas to the Campus for Human Development and shared dinner with the homeless there. The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals heard about Philip’s request and delivered 15 pizzas to the mission. The Oasis Center, a shelter for teenagers in Nashville, received 17 pizzas from a Minneapolis Radio station.
And the pizzas kept multiplying. Pete Gathje and Jenny Case reported that in Memphis at Emmanuel House, a house of hospitality, 20 large pizzas were served courtesy of Elizabeth Vandiver from Washington. In Portland, Oregon, the Sisters of the Road Café—a drop in eatery for the homeless—began receiving pizza. In Connecticut, Bob Nave, Executive Director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, reported 500 homeless people enjoyed 150 pizzas. And, Fabian Hathorn, along with other French activists, sent $200 to the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing to buy pizzas for the homeless. All told, over 1,500 homeless people nationwide enjoyed a pizza party because Philip Workman, executed by Tennessee as the “worst kind of monster,” chose to remember a homeless person as his last act on earth.
Today we remember the compassion of Philip Workman in his most agonizing hour. We remember Lt. Ronald Oliver, Philip Workman, and all those affected by their deaths. Today we remember that there is much work to be done, and we recommit ourselves to resisting and ultimately abolishing the death penalty in Tennessee. Let us on this day strive to live as people who affirm with Martin Luther King Jr.:
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
May 2, 2008 — Diann Rust Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, issued the following statement today in response to today’s announced exoneration out of North Carolina:
“It’s been more than seven months since an execution occurred in the U.S. – the longest de facto moratorium in our country in 25 years. And today, just as executions are set to resume in the U.S., Levon “Bo” Jones becomes the 129th person to be freed from death row since 1976, after evidence of innocence emerged. He’s the eighth wrongly convicted death row inmate out of North Carolina alone. Nationally, there have been five death row exonerations since the current de facto moratorium began in late September. Jones is the second consecutive North Carolina man to be freed from death row after evidence of police misconduct was brought to light.
“It is therefore inappropriate — indeed, incredible — that executions are set to resume beginning next Tuesday in Georgia. Today I am reflecting on the fact that during the seven-month moratorium, states that are now gearing up to resume executions did absolutely nothing to assure that society’s ultimate sanction is fair or accurate.
“New Jersey is an example of the good that can come when states stop and assess. Legislators there during the past year held hearings on New Jersey’s death penalty system and ultimately decided to repeal it. Other states such as California and Tennessee also launched studies of their death penalty statutes.
“In contrast, states like Alabama and Texas sat on their hands – waiting for a signal from the U.S. Supreme Court that they could resume executions. And when the Court did rule, its conclusions did nothing to clean up the mismanagement and incompetence that is more routine than not in states carrying out executions. Mr. Jones spent 13 years on death row, and had he been an inmate in Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas or Virginia, it is quite likely he would be dead today – and the truth buried with him.
“This is proof positive that we don’t need to return to business as usual. States should suspend executions until they have examined their system and can assure us that innocent people are not at risk of execution.”
A three judge panel in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday in the appeal in the case of Paul House. Paul House remains on Tennessee’s death row though new evidence indicating his innocence (including DNA) has been uncovered. He has been on death row for over 22 years. The three judge panel’s ruling may take months to be delivered.
Read more about this HERE.