WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – A visiting judge has decided death row inmate Danny Lee Hill can ask for a new trial.
Hill was convicted in the attack, rape and murder of 12-year-old Raymond Fife in 1986. Fife was walking through a wooded field in Warren when Hill attacked and killed him.
The 49 year old has been on death row for almost 30 years after being found guilty of aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape, aggravated arson and felonious sexual penetration.
The ruling, which was made Tuesday by Judge Patricia Cosgrove, comes almost six months after hearing arguments about whether Hill should be allowed to have a new trial. It says based on the hearing, the court found “clear and convincing evidence” that Hill was “unavoidably prevented” from filing a motion for a new proceeding within 120 days following his conviction.
That is because guidelines involving the reliability of bite mark evidence did not exist when he stood trial. In 2013, the American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO) Reference Manual established new guidelines for bite mark analysis, which were later modified in 2015 and subject to intense scrutiny.
According to Cosgrove’s ruling, a doctor hired by Hill’s defense concluded that the bite marks on the victim’s genitals did not represent a human bite mark. Prosecutors have argued that the opinion does not constitute newly discovered evidence, but the court ruled that delving into the issue would require a ruling on the merits for a new trial.
The ruling does not necessarily mean that Hill will be granted a new trial but that it will be considered.
The court has instructed Hill to file a motion. A telephone conference has been scheduled for 1 p.m. June 21 to schedule a hearing date for the new trial request.
Hill describes details of the crime:
(Courtesy of The Marshall Project)