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DEATH ROW CASE Appeals court awaits ruling on mental capacity



Published: Wed, August 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A prosecutor said the federal court's ruling was expected.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A federal court has stayed the appeal process for death row inmate Danny Lee Hill until a state court decides whether the convicted murderer is mentally retarded.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled Tuesday that before it can continue with Hill's appeals the state court must rule on his mental ability.

The Cincinnati-based court's ruling comes in the wake of the June decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that it is unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded people. Someone with an IQ of 70 or lower is generally considered to be retarded.

Tests of Hill showed he had an IQ of about 68 at the time of his trial, said Miriam Fife, mother of Hill's victim.

The federal court stated that the case will be sent to the federal court in Youngstown with orders that it be remanded to the state court.

Atty. LuWayne Annos, an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, said she is not sure if the federal court will send the case back to the common pleas court or the 11th District Court of Appeals.

"We will have to wait and find out," Annos said. She also noted that the ruling was expected.

"After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling we pretty much expected this to happen," Annos said.

Atty. Mark A. Vander Laan, who handled Hill's appeal in federal court, also said he did not know which court would hear the case.

"We should find something out in about 90 days," Vander Laan said.

Hill, 35, has been on death row since 1986 for the murder of Fife's 12 year-old son, Raymond. Hill was convicted of aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape, aggravated arson and felonious assault.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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