The Florida Supreme Court overturned Paul Hildwin’s conviction and death sentence two weeks ago after DNA tests of evidence discovered at the scene matched the victim’s boyfriend, but he remains on death row.
Twenty-eight years after his conviction in connection with a murder in 1985, Hildwin, 54, must wait for state prosecutors to decide whether to retry the case or drop the charges, Reuters reports.
Hildwin was placed on death row for killing Vronzettie Cox, a 42-year-old woman who was raped, strangled and left in the trunk of a car in the woods in Florida.
Hildwin hitched a ride with Cox and her boyfriend, William Haverty, several days earlier and was later found with a forged check he stole from her. He said he got out of the car after the pair got into a violent argument.
At trial, an FBI expert testified that fluids found at the crime scene matched with Hildwin. The defense argued that Haverty was the likely suspect, but Hildwin was convicted and sentenced to death.
In 2003, DNA tests proved Hildwin was not the source, but the state refused to run evidence through a DNA database to search for a match, arguing the evidence was not eligible.
After the state Supreme Court ordered a DNA check in 2011, it matched Haverty, who was in jail for a child sex abuse charge.
In a 5-2 ruling two weeks ago, the court said that “we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that a significant pillar of the state’s case, as presented to the jury, has collapsed.”
The court ordered a new trial for Hildwin, who will be transferred from a state prison to a local jail in northern Florida.
Hildwin’s is the fourth case in more than a year of a death sentence being reversed by the state Supreme Court due to new evidence, the New York Daily News reports. Florida has exonerated 24 inmates on death row, the highest reversal rate in the country.