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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer Blog


Florida Death Row Inmate Has Sentence Overturned After 28 Years in Prison


Paul Hildwin





Sentence Overturned for Florida Death Row Inmate

On June 27, the Florida Supreme Court vacated a conviction and death sentence of Mr. Paul Hildwin due to newly discovered evidence.  New DNA evidence discredited the scientific evidence used to convict Mr. Hildwin of the 1985 murder of Vronzettie Cox, 42.  In a 5-2 ruling, the majority of the court said “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.”

Innocence Project of Florida Prevented Hildwin’s Execution

Mr. Hildwin has been on death row for 28 years.  Based upon a rag that was at the scene of the murder, Mr. Hildwin’s suggested suspect was excluded, and he was included.  Now, due to advances in DNA, Mr. Hildwin is now excluded and the suggested suspect has been included.

In 1990, Hildwin came close to losing his life after a death warrant was issued by the state of Florida, and a date was set for his execution.  However, diligent and perseverant legal work conducted by the Innocence Project of Florida prevented his execution, and revealed compelling details pointing to his wrongful conviction.

Possible Exoneration

It is likely that Mr. Hildwin will be exonerated.  If so, he will be the 25th Florida capital inmate released from Death Row since the 1970’s, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.  Florida continues to be one of the few states in the nation that do not require a unanimous verdict by the jury in their recommendation of death.

The case of Mr. Hildwin highlights the challenges facing an individual defendant charged with a crime by the State.  As I’ve written in a previous blog post, the state has virtually unlimited resources to marshal their witnesses, evidence and experts.  Fortunately, our Constitution requires that the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty of the crime they have charged.   If you need help understanding your constitutional rights, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help.  I would be happy to hear from you.