Nearly 30 years after Paul C. Hildwin was convicted of strangling a Hernando County woman, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday overturned both his conviction and death sentence, saying that new DNA evidence “completely discredits” the case used by the state, reports the Associated Press. A divided court ruled 5-2 that Hildwin should be given a new trial. The new evidence instead points to the person that Hildwin said had done the crime all along — the victim's boyfriend, who was sentenced in 1998 to 20 years for attempted sexual battery of a child.
“It's a wonderful day but a very long and overdue one,” said Nina Morrison, a senior staff attorney with The Innocence Project working on the case. “It's taken us a decade to get him the justice he deserved.” Hildwin had been sentenced to die for killing 42-year-old Vronzettie Cox, whose nude body was found stuffed in the trunk of a car in September 1985. Prosecutors in 1986 contended DNA implicated Hildwin. Years later, the DNA was tested and did not belong to Hildwin. It took eight years to get the DNA matched against federal and state criminal databases, which showed the DNA matched the victim’s boyfriend.