FLORIDA (USA): DNA PROVES DEATH ROW INMATE INNOCENT AFTER NEARLY 30 YEARS
June 26, 2014: The Florida Supreme Court overturned 5-2 both the conviction and death sentence imposed on Paul C. Hildwin, 54, White, after new DNA evidence raised questions about whether or not he killed a woman nearly 30 years ago.
Hildwin had been sentenced to die for the September 8, 1985 rape and murder of 42-year-old Vronzettie Cox. During Mr. Hildwinâ€™s 1986 murder trial, prosecutors told jurors that the type of DNA found on Ms. Coxâ€™s underwear and a washcloth at the scene was consistent with Mr. Hildwinâ€™s. No evidence of a direct match was offered. Subsequent testing in 2003 made it clear the DNA did not match Mr. Hildwin. But it was not until 2010, when the Florida Supreme Court ordered the state to run the DNA against the national database, that a match was made: the DNA belonged to Cox's former boyfriend, William Haverty.
Mr. Haverty is in prison serving a sentence for attempted sexual battery of a child.
A majority of the court said this "completely discredits" the scientific evidence used by prosecutors at trial. â€śThe DNA evidence, Mr. Havertyâ€™s criminal background and statements by witnesses who prove the crime couldnâ€™t have occurred when originally thought, make it obviously clear that law enforcement went after the wrong person,â€ť said Marty McClain, the local court-appointed lawyer who worked with the Innocence Project.
Nina Morrison, an attorney with The Innocence Project working on the case, says Hildwin will remain on death row until the time passes for the state to argue for a rehearing in the case. Mr. Hildwin, who had been riding with the couple in their car in 1985 before the murder, was arrested after cashing one of Ms. Coxâ€™s checks. He had stolen the checkbook from Ms. Coxâ€™s car. Mr. Hildwin told the police and prosecutors that as he got out of the parked car, the couple was arguing, and Mr. Haverty was trying to choke his girlfriend. (Sources: ABC News, Associated Press, 26/06/2014)