Friday, December 15, 2017
Public safety

High courts save two Hernando convicts from death

High courts removed the threat of execution during the past year for two Hernando County killers who had spent decades on death row: Paul Hildwin and Freddie Lee Hall.

In a decision that could change the sentencing of intellectually disabled death row inmates in several states, the U.S. Supreme Court in May set aside the death sentence of Hall, 69, who in 1978 killed Hernando County deputy Lonnie Coburn and raped and killed 21-year-old Karol Hurst, who was seven months pregnant.

The court agreed with Hall, who had claimed that the state's threshold for determining whether he was capable of standing trial was too narrow.

A month later, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction and death sentence of Paul Hildwin, 54. He had been convicted in 1986 partly on the strength of scientific evidence discredited by modern DNA testing.

Prosecutors will retry Hildwin and seek the death sentence. The state Attorney General's Office has asked the state high court to restore Hall's death sentence based on existing evidence.

Dan DeWitt, Times staff

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