The U.S. Supreme Court decided a federal appeals court needs to take another look at the case of Danny Lee Hill, who was convicted of murdering a boy in the ’80s. Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins and the victim’s mother are happy the death penalty could be brought back.
Hill was convicted in the 1985 attack, rape and murder of 12-year-old Raymond Fife. Hill was 18 at the time.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the death penalty last February, saying there was clear and convincing evidence that Hill is mentally disabled.
Then-Attorney General Mike DeWine appealed that ruling.
In Monday’s unsigned opinion, the justices said the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals applied the wrong standard when it found Hill was not eligible for execution.
“Justice is a journey. It doesn’t end until it’s done,” Watkins said.
The high court said the appellate judges were wrong when they relied on a recent Supreme Court Decision to base their case, saying they should have based their decision on rulings that were in effect at the time state courts found Hill was not mentally disabled.
“As far as we know, it’s unanimous,” Watkins said. “There were no dissents. The whole court said the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals wrongfully applied the law.”
Watkins was joined Monday by Miriam Fife, Raymond’s mother.
“I was happy about it. I wanted it to be over, period,” she said. “But I just know that, OK, maybe this case — when it’s finally settled and everything’s done — will help another case at some point coming down the pike.”
“We are very happy that it’s going back and the death penalty may be imposed,” Watkins said. “As we said with the appeal and as this string opinion says, the evidence is there.”
Watkins said the Supreme Court accepts only about 1 percent of petitions like this each year.