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Former death row inmate celebrates his independence

  • Story Highlights
  • Paul House is celebrating July Fourth with family for first time in more than 22 years
  • House, 46, was sentenced to death in 1986 for neighbor's rape and murder
  • Former death row inmate glad to be celebrating July Fourth, but doesn't feel patriotic
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By Emanuella Grinberg
CNN
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(CNN) -- Paul House says you'll have to excuse him if he isn't feeling especially patriotic this Fourth of July.

House, 46, spent 22 years on Tennessee's death row for the rape and murder of his neighbor, Carolyn Muncey, in 1985.

Thanks to an appeals court ruling, House was released Wednesday, two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that new DNA evidence could have led a jury to acquit him.

House, who has multiple sclerosis, is thrilled to be spending July Fourth with his family for the first time in more than 22 years. But he admits that his experience has changed him.

"I'm not patriotic at all, and I don't think I should be because of what those idiots have done to me," House said Friday in a phone interview from his mother's home in Crossville, Tennessee. "I think I may have forgiven them, but who knows."

Despite his reluctant patriotism, House is looking forward to the BBQ and fireworks his mother has prepared.

"I gave up on feeling anything, but boy, I'm in mama's house now and I feel good, better than I felt in prison," he said. "Prison sucks."

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His mother, Joyce, says having her son home makes this Independence Day even more special.

"It feels great. I don't have to worry about him every night and every day. It's just fantastic," she said.

Looking ahead, Joyce House's days will be filled with caring for her son and shuttling him among doctors. She has also retrofitted her home with rails and a ramp so he can get around in a wheelchair.

"I've done my research so I'm ready for it. It's better than him being in prison," she said.

House denies that he was involved in Muncey's death. He appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court based on new tests that revealed the presence of DNA from Muncey's husband on her body.

The high court sent his case back to district court, where U.S. District Court Judge Harry Mattice Jr. ruled in December that the state must retry House or release him.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judge's decision. House is scheduled for retrial in October, though prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

As he awaits trial, House says he is looking forward to sitting on his mother's back deck, watching television and maybe playing a game of poker. But most of all, he is looking forward to the food.

"I'm sitting here eating a Nestle Crunch bar and it tastes great," he said. "They don't feed you too well in prison."

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