Legal Limbo
Bill Waugh  /  AP
Paul House, who was on death row for 22 years after being convicted in 1986 of murdering Carolyn Muncey in East Tennessee, is seen here on July 2 after his release from prison.
updated 2/20/2009 8:17:06 PM ET 2009-02-21T01:17:06

DNA from key evidence in a Tennessee woman's slaying does not match the man who spent more than two decades on death row for killing her, according to new FBI lab tests.

Paul House, 47, who uses a wheelchair because he developed multiple sclerosis in prison, was convicted of killing Carolyn Muncey nearly 23 years ago. But the case against him has been in doubt for years because of DNA testing, which wasn't available then.

House was released last year after the U.S. Supreme Court concluded no reasonable juror would have found him guilty based on DNA tests of semen stains on Muncey's clothing. Authorities had claimed he lured Muncey from her dilapidated cabin, beat her, killed her and then dumped her body in a culvert. There were no witnesses.

The court also said House's lawyers offered new witnesses who provided "substantial evidence pointing to a different suspect" — Muncey's husband, Hubert.

The new FBI tests examined blood from under Carolyn Muncey's fingernails and cigarette butts found near her body and determined the DNA doesn't belong to House or the victim but to an unidentified third party. The DNA also doesn't match Hubert Muncey, who has always denied any involvement in the crime and believes House is guilty.

Still, prosecutor Paul Phillips wants to retry House.

"What the evidence would suggest to us is there may have been other people involved in the crime as well as Mr. House," he said.

'Stringing this out'
Federal public defender Stephen Kissinger, who wants the courts to stop Phillips from retrying House, submitted the lab report to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Thursday.

"I think the evidence is overwhelming at this point that Mr. Phillips has no basis to pursue retrial in Mr. House's case, to prosecute him for a murder he clearly did not commit," Kissinger said.

House is to be tried again June 1, nearly three years after the Supreme Court opinion citing doubt about his guilt. The state is no longer seeking the death penalty.

Defense attorneys have complained about the slow pace of settling the charges against House, who was released into his mother's care in July at her home in Crossville, about 100 miles east of Nashville.

A federal judge last year ordered the case to proceed quickly. But the trial date was pushed back to June 1 to give House's state lawyer more time to prepare.

Kissinger says the state has also delayed turning over evidence reports.

"Basically they're stringing this out, just hoping they find some evidence House did it because they don't have any now," Kissinger said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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