TALLAHASSEE Fla. (Reuters) - The Florida attorney general was considering the state's next move on Friday after the state Supreme Court ruled a man sentenced to die for a 25-year-old murder should be taken off death row.
The 6-1 Supreme Court ruling on Thursday granted the appeal of Carl Dausch, who has been on death row since 2012, saying the DNA evidence that formed the basis of his murder conviction was not sufficient.
The high court sent the case back to the trial court with instructions that Dausch be acquitted.
Jenn Meale, an aide to Attorney General Pam Bondi said her office was considering a petition for a rehearing.
Dausch may get off death row in Florida, but he is not scotfree. He will be sent back to his native Indiana to complete a 60-year rape sentence, with his earliest parole date still three years away.
The Florida case involved the beating death of Adrian Mobley, who was found hogtied beside a road in Sumter County in 1987. His car was later found in Tennessee and his wallet near the Georgia-Florida line.
The case was unsolved until the Florida Department of Law Enforcement got a grant to study DNA in cold cases, and evidence led to Dausch.
Dausch's DNA was found on fingerprints in the car, including on a cigarette butt and on the car's ashtray on the passenger's side. But Dausch claimed this was because he had contact with the real killer after the murder, that he rode with the killer while hitchhiking from North Florida to Indiana.
The court said there was no evidence Dausch had gone as far south as Sumter County, where Mobley's body was found.
On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court ruled the DNA evidence that formed the basis of the 2011 conviction was not conclusive, and the fingerprints could be explained.
"Our comprehensive review of this case leaves us with the inescapable conclusion that the evidence is simply insufficient to conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Dausch was the person responsible for murdering Mobley," said the unsigned order.
Chief Justice Ricky Polston dissented, saying the justices were second-guessing a jury that accepted the DNA and other evidence in Dausch's trial.
Polston said the majority ignored a suicide attempt by Dausch on the eve of his trial, which Polston said indicated "consciousness of guilt."
Editing by Edith Honan. Editing by Andre Grenon