a publication of Equal Justice USA

DNA tests cleared him. Six witnesses say someone else committed the crime. Six judges ruled him innocent.

Fall 2004

So why is Tennessee still trying to execute Paul House?
by Randy Tatel Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing

A columnist for the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville asks, “Did you kill Carolyn Muncey?” “No,” answers Paul Gregory House. “Never even thought about it. Had no reason to. She was a nice person.” The Tennessee death row inmate’s case made national news in October, when the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals voted 8-7 to deny House a new trial. The decision and the dissent were so divided and diametrically opposed

that a Tennessean editorial wondered if the judges even considered the same facts. “The judicial divide was also totally partisan, with eight Republican appointees voting for execution, six Democratic appointees voting that the defendant is innocent, and one separate dissenter calling for a new trial,” the editorial went on to say. “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,” Judge Ronald Lee Gilman wrote.

House was sentenced to death for the murder of Carolyn Muncey, whose body was found July 14, 1985, partially concealed at the bottom of an embankment near her rural Union County home in East Tennessee. A friend of Muncey’s husband said he saw House emerging from the area where the body was found. Prosecutors said rape was the motive for the kidnapping and murder. Semen found on Muncey’s body was first attributed to House, a convicted sex offender.
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In this issue...
Tennessee innocence case Paul House........................1 TX police chief calls for moratorium amidst scandal..................................1 Supreme Court hears arguments on juvenile executions............................2 New York death penalty remains at bay......................3 New EJUSA field organizer..3 Bush nominates new Attorney General.................4

Houston Police Chief calls for a moratorium on executions
Houston Police Dept crime lab scandal reaches new heights
By Scott Cobb Texas Moratorium Network

Dominique Green was sentenced to die for the 1992 Texas robbery and murder of Andrew Lastrapes, Jr. Green admitted that he took part in the robbery, but insisted throughout his 12 years on death row that he did not commit the murder. The key evidence used by the state to prove otherwise was a ballistics test performed by the crime lab of the Houston Police Department. Yet the Houston lab has been rocked by a series of scandals ranging from

tainted DNA evidence to incompetent lab technicians to faulty ballistics testing methods. The damning charges against the lab, emerging over a period of two years, reached their peak just months before Green was executed. In August, 280 boxes of mislabeled evidence from the lab were found in storage. The boxes contained files from more than 8,000 cases. A federal judge halted Green’s execution, agreeing with lawyers that the improperly stored and catalogued
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QUIXOTE CENTER ~ P.O. Box 5206, 2004 Hyattsville, MD 20782 ~ 301-699-0042 ~ 301-864-2182 (fax) ~ www.quixote.org/ej ~ ejusa@quixote.org Fall page 1 Equal Justice USA

Supreme Court to rule on juvenile death penalty
Nobel Laureates, attorneys general, 50 nations, and others ask the Court to ban the practice
By Jeff Stack Missouri Ban Youth Executions Coalition

This fall, the United States toddled one step closer to ending juvenile executions. The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Missouri case, Roper v. Simmons, on October 13. Chris Simmons, the defendant in the case, had been sentenced to death for the murder of Shirley Crook. Simmons was 17 at the time of his crime.

vote to affirm Missouri’s ban of the juvenile death penalty last year. The four-member liberal wing of the Court has already made its views public. “The practice of executing such offenders,” wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in 2003, “is a relic of the past and is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency in a civilized society.’’ Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer joined Stevens in the statement.

niles are already deemed too immature to enter into contracts, marry, drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, serve in the military, and vote. Recent scientific evidence has shown that the adolescent brain – particularly the areas responsible for judgment, weighing of consequences, and impulse control – is developmentally incomplete. Juvenile executions on the wane Also during the October hearings, Justice Anthony Kennedy opined, “We’ve seen very substantial demonstration that world opinion is against this (practice)... Does that have a bearing on what’s unusual?” Seth Waxman, the attorney who represented Simmons, later remarked that the seven U.S. states which have executed juvenile offenders are “not only alone in this country, they are alone in the world.” Executions of juvenile offenders have indeed become more unusual in recent years. Twenty-two juveniles have been executed in the U.S. since 1976. Of those, 82% have been carried out in just three states: Texas, Virginia and Oklahoma. Juries are increasingly less willing to put young offenders to death, according the American Bar Association and the Criminal Justice Reform Education Fund. The rate for juvenile death sentencing “is now at its lowest point in 14 years. In 2003, only two juveniles were sentenced to death in the entire U.S.,” the organizations state in an October news release. Wide support demonstrated

Seth Waxman, the attorney who represented Simmons, later remarked that the seven U.S. states which have executed juveniles are “not only alone in this country, they are alone in the world.”

A stunning array of other nations and U.S. medical, legal, religious and child-advocacy associations filed amicus curiae briefs in the case, urging the Supreme Court to ban the juvenile death penalty. Justices Speak Out During the October arguments, both Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy suggested potential support for establishing 18 as the minimum age individuals could be considered for the death penalty. At least one of those two Justices is needed as the crucial fifth

Currently, 31 states and the federal government prohibit the execution of juveniles. Justice O’Connor remarked during oral arguments that “it’s about the same consensus that existed” when the Court ruled to ban death sentencing of mentally-retarded individuals in the 2002 Atkins v. Virginia case. “Kids are different” Advocates of the juvenile ban assert that juveniles, like mentally-retarded individuals, are less culpable of crimes than adults and should be treated differently when considering the most severe of all punishments. Juve-

More than 16 different groups filed amicus briefs on behalf of Simmons, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureates – among them, former President Jimmy Carter, former Soviet President Mikhail

Equal Justice USA

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Fall 2004

New York death penalty remains at bay
Emergency campaign keeps organizers on the edge of our seats!
The New York State Court of Appeals ruled in June that the state’s death penalty law was unconstitutional as it was written. The Governor and legislative leaders promised a “quick fix” that would amend the law and bring New York’s death penalty back right away, but EJUSA and out state partners, New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, have so far managed to block their efforts. When you last heard from EJUSA, our emergency initiative had successfully derailed a vote on the death penalty in the Assembly. The Assembly Speaker brought the issue to his party conference in July, and at least 25 members spoke up against the death penalty. Our successes have multiplied since then. On September 14, just four days after two Brooklyn police detectives were killed, the Assembly Speaker told reporters in Albany that the Senate’s version of the “quick fix” was constitutionally suspect. He went on to say that the issue of capital punishment should be re-opened for careful examination, including full public hearings. Republican leadership tried to attach the “quick fix” to a veto override less than a week later, when the Assembly came back in a one-day session. They failed. Hearings are now set for December and January. In the meantime, organizers continue to pursue a public campaign to keep New York death penalty-free. EJUSA has added a full-time organizer to the effort (see box). NYADP and EJUSA have met with groups across the New York metropolitan region. Organizers also hosted two large events with Dead Man Walking author Sister Helen Prejean in October, and two press events, one hosted by New York City Council members and one featuring former Secretary Andrew Cuomo.

cing trodu tt In Mino anice J

Equal Justice USA is proud to announce that we hired temporary field organizer Janice Minott to work on the ground in New York City for several months. EJUSA was able to bring Janice on board this critical campaign thanks to the generous response of EJUSA constituents to our last appeal. Janice has tremendous knowledge and experience working in the city of New York. She served as Legislative Director for City Council Member Bill Perkins for six years, where she worked directly with citywide and community organizations on a host of issues including education, housing, healthcare, criminal justice, immigration, and many others. Janice also played a key role in passing a moratorium resolution through the New York City Council in 2002. Council Member Perkins introduced the resolution and both New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty and Equal Justice USA provided direct grassroots organizing support to ensure its passage. New York City is the largest local government in the country to pass a moratorium resolution. Janice brings to the New York campaign an extensive set of relationships with community residents and key leaders across the city and state. Before joining the staff of Council Member Perkins, she served in the New York State Assembly for five years. We are thrilled to have her on board!

Fall 2004

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Equal Justice USA

Juveniles, cont’d from p. 2
Gorbachev, former South African President F. W. de Klerk and the Dalai Lama; nine former U.S. diplomats; national medical, legal, and religious institutions; child-advocacy groups; nearly 50 countries including the European Union; and attorneys general for ten states, including several states which have the death penalty for adults but not for juveniles. In a mid-November phone conversation, Simmons expressed gratitude to the hundreds of activists who have struggled to end the practice. Halting the juvenile death penalty, he noted, “is one point where we need to start as a society to get away from revenge politics and to get to peacemaking, which is what our justice system should be about.” A decision on his case is expected to be announced by the spring of 2005.
The Ban Youth Execution Coalition submitted an amicus brief in support of Simmons. The Coalition includes Citizens for Missouri’s Children, Missouri Catholic Conference, Missouri National Education Association, Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty, and many others.

“More power to him for whatever he’s done in prison to change his life, but it’s irrelevant…”
– Andy Kahan,
(Houston Mayor’s crime victims’ advocate speaking about the execution of Dominique Green. While on death row, Green counseled younger inmates and helped other prisoners research the law.)

Bush nominates Alberto Gonzales as new Attorney General
George W. Bush’s new nominee for Attorney General, a position currently held by John Ashcroft, is bad news for those of us concerned about justice. Alberto Gonzales is best known as White Counsel for approving a memo authorizing torture and declaring portions of the Geneva conventions obsolete. But Gonzales is also no stranger to the anti-death penalty movement. Gonzales served as Texas Chief Legal Counsel where he was responsible for writing a memo to then-governor George W. Bush on each death penalty case before execution. Bush decided whether a defendant should live or die based on the memos. The Atlantic Monthly examined the Gonzales memos in a scathing 2003 expose, and found that Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand, even actual evidence of innocence. One such memo, for defendant Terry Washington, hardly mentioned the fact that Washington was a mentally retarded 33-year-old man with the communication skills of a seven-year-old. Nor did he mention that Washington's lawyer had "failed to enlist a mental-health expert" to testify on Washington's behalf, even though these were the central issues raised in the thirty-page clemency petition.
[Source: Center for American Progress]

Equal Justice USA

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Fall 2004

Houston crime lab scandal, cont’d from front
evidence should first be examined. Higher courts, however, lifted the stay and the execution went forward. Despite the ongoing and growing scandal in the Houston crime lab, Green is no exception – Texas continues to execute people from Harris County, where the lab has jurisdiction. Already seven people from Harris County have been executed this year, and another three are scheduled between December and March. Every one of them is a person of color (seven African Americans and three Latinos). One of them, Frances Newton, was also convicted on ballistics evidence analyzed by the Houston crime lab. Ballistics tests at the lab have been a major area of controversy during the scandal. But prominent Texans are speaking out, especially in the aftermath of the 280 found boxes, with several calling for a moratorium on executions of people convicted in Harris County. Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said, “I think it would be very prudent for us as a criminal justice system to delay further executions (from Harris County) until we have had time to review the evidence.” Hurtt is the second consecutive Houston police chief to call for a halt of at least some Harris County executions. In 2003, then-Houston Police Chief C.O. Bradford told a Texas House committee that execution dates should not be set for seven Harris County men until DNA evidence in those cases could be reviewed. Bradford said in 2003, “There should be a ceaseand-desist until their case is reviewed, but that’s just my opinion.” Chief Hurrt has been joined in his call for a halt to Harris County executions by Senator John Whitmire, Senator Rodney Ellis, former Governor Mark White and The Houston Chronicle Editorial Board. State Senator Tommy Williams, a Republican from a Houston suburb and member of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, has even been reported in the media as saying that while he has not called for a moratorium, he is not opposed to one. Tom Price is a sitting Republican judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and perhaps the most influential person so far to call for a halt to executions. “I think it would be prudent to delay further executions until we have had a chance to have this evidence independently verified,” said Price. “Once a death sentence is carried out, you cannot reverse that.” Price has also raised concerns about the accuracy of the police lab’s ballistics analyses. In addition to the calls for a moratorium on Harris County executions, the Texas Democratic Party endorsed a moratorium on all executions in Texas “in order to promote public confidence in the fairness of the Texas criminal justice system.” Texas Moratorium Network has been contacting legislators since the resolution passed this summer, and expects that the Houston crime lab problems and the Texas Democratic Party’s platform endorsement will motivate several new voices in the Legislature to be raised in favor of a moratorium on all executions. Governor Rick Perry, however, has so far rejected all calls to halt executions. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court agree with Governor Perry, having turned down Dominique Green’s appeal after U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas issued a stay. Green was executed on October 26, despite pleas from the victim’s widow and two sons that his life be spared.
The Texas Moratorium Network is a grassroots group based in Austin, TX. TMN gathers moratorium resolutions from civic groups, faith communities, political parties, and local governments. To learn more, visit www.texasmoratorium.org.

Fall 2004

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Equal Justice USA

Tennessee, cont’d from front
But later DNA tests – not widely available at the time of House’s trial – revealed the semen came from her husband, Hubert Muncey. As the DNA evidence seemed to exonerate House, investigators for the defense tracked half-dozen witnesses against the husband, who most definitely did have a motive to kill his wife. He beat her; she’d threatened to leave him. He also offered a weeping confession one night around the time of House’s trial. Judge Gil Merritt, who issued a blistering and lengthy dissent, seemed incredulous at the court’s majority ruling. “In my view, it is more probable than not that House is innocent of the homicide and that Mr. Muncey killed his wife, as he confessed,” he wrote. “Six witnesses – Letner, Parker, Miller, Wallace, Lawson and Lutrell – now provide either direct or circumstantial evidence that Mr. Muncey killed his wife. He had a motive. The motive attributed to House no longer exists.” Six months before this inappropriately partisan ruling, the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing (TCASK) reached out to House’s mother and asked if the organization could help her and her family tell their story.

This is unprecedented... A case in which six judges find that the defendant didn’t do the crime is more than just a legal curiosity.
- Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University

TCASK brought Joyce House in to work with death row exonoree Ray Krone this spring, when Nashville’s Broadaxe Theatre produced the acclaimed play, The Exonerated. The two spoke with high school and college students and were guests on local media shows. TCASK further spread House’s story to over 200 media contacts, helping pave the way for public outrage over the 6th Circuit’s shocking ruling. “This is unprecedented,” said Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University. “A case in which six judges find that the defendant didn’t do the crime is more than just a legal curiosity. In any rational legal universe, there is now at least reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt.” TCASK and EJUSA utilize cases like that of Paul House to undergird

our grassroots and media education efforts in our ongoing moratorium campaigns. Cases such as this one underscore the message of a death penalty system that is unfair, error-prone, and unreliable. Reasonable people, including those who don’t oppose capital punishment in principle, find these injustices troubling in the adjudication of life and death. In the meantime, Tennessee’s efforts to execute a likely innocent man march forward.
The Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing is a statewide coalition that works to promote alternatives to capital punishment in Tennessee. TCASK is a recognized leader among state antideath penalty groups, and was one of five states selected to attend Equal Justice USA’s first moratorium training and strategy retreat last year. To learn more, visit www.tcask.org.

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