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Prosecutor wants U.S. Supreme Court to consider Danny Lee Hill death sentence

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Danny Lee Hill Danny Lee Hill
WARREN, Ohio -

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins says there's nothing to lose and everything to gain by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case of a man who has been on Ohio's death row for raping, torturing and murdering a 12-year-old Warren Boy Scout 32 years ago.

In a letter to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Watkins asked that that state challenge a decision by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that could spare 51-year-old Danny Lee Hill from execution.

Although the appellate court upheld Hill's conviction for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Raymond Fife, the court also found that Hill demonstrates several of the prerequisites to be considered mentally deficient.

According to the ruling, Hill's IQ varies between a low of 48 and a high of 71.

After review of videotapes of Danny Lee Hill's interrogation, the court found Hill to be "childlike, confused, often irrational, and primarily self -defeating".

A previous U.S. Supreme Court decision found that persons with diminished capacity are not subject to the death penalty.

Hill's case has been sent back to the lower court for re-sentencing.

The appeals court has since rejected a state request to reconsider its decision, so Prosecutor Watkins now wants the case taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The bottom line is that Ohio has nothing to lose and everything to gain with an appeal,” writes Watkins, who adds that federal courts have not adequately considered the “many Ohio court decisions affirming that Danny Hill was not mentally retarded...”

According to court records, on September 10, 1985, Raymond Fife's father found his son burned, naked and beaten in a wooded field behind the Valu-King supermarket on Palmyra Road in Warren.

The boy's underwear was found tied around his neck and appeared to have been lit on fire.

He died in the hospital two days later.

The coroner testified during the trial that Fife had been choked and burned. There was damage to Fife's rectal-bladder area and bite marks on his penis.

Three Warren Western Reserve High School students testified that Hill and Timothy Combs were in the area of the Valu-King and the bike trails on the evening Raymond Fife was assaulted. One of the students had also seen Fife riding his bike in the store parking lot.

A student who said he saw Combs on the trail also said he heard a child's scream. Another student says he saw Combs pulling up the zipper of his blue jeans.

Two days after Fife was found, Hill, who was 18-years-old at the time, went to the Warren Police Station to inquire about a $5,000 reward that was being offered for information concerning the murder.

Eventually, police say Hill admitted on audio and videotape that he was present during the beating and sexual assault of Fife, but that Combs did everything to the victim.

Combs was eventually convicted of felonious sexual penetration, arson, rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder.

Since Combs was 17-years-old at the time of the crime, he was not eligible for the death penalty and is serving a life sentence. He will be eligible for his first parole hearing in 2049.

Hill was convicted on the same charges, but since he was 18-years-old at the time Fife was assaulted, he was sentenced to death.

The letter from Dennis Watkins may be read here

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