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Court to rule whether Hill can drop appeal

Published: Tue, October 31, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.

Danny Lee Hill has been avoiding the death penalty since 1986.
WARREN -- The 11th District Court of Appeals has again returned to the lower court the case of convicted child killer Danny Lee Hill.
This time, the Trumbull County Common Pleas Court will determine if Hill is competent to drop the appeal regarding whether or not he's mentally retarded.
The appellate court announced its decision Monday.
Hill, of Warren, was sentenced to death in 1986 at age 19. He was convicted of the 1985 torture and murder of 12-year-old Raymond Fife.
On Feb. 14, visiting Judge Thomas P. Curran of Cuyahoga County ruled that Hill was not mentally retarded; Hill had previously contended he is.
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled execution of the retarded is cruel and unusual punishment, even in past cases.
Now, Hill wants to drop his appeal and asks that a competency hearing be held in common pleas court.
Hill's assertions
In writing the appellate court opinion, Judge Donald R. Ford said that though Hill himself requests that a decision be made as to whether he has the ability to forgo the appeal of Judge Curran's ruling, Hill has made certain assertions that he can do so.
Judge Ford wrote that Hill has made these assertions predicated upon his discontent with his attorneys.
The lower court will have to determine during a hearing if Hill is competent to make decisions about his legal representation on his appeal to the 11th District Court, and also his ability to waive his right to that appeal.
This latest action in the long-running Hill case was filed by his court-appointed lawyers, James Jenkins and Henry Hilow, both of Cleveland.
'Clear distinction'
Although Judge Curran ruled that Hill is not mentally retarded, there is a "clear distinction between being mentally retarded and being incompetent," Judge Ford wrote.
LuWayne Annos, an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, pointed out Monday that Hill didn't want any attorney appointed to represent him from the Ohio Public Defender's Office. That's why Jenkins and Hilow were appointed.
Annos said Hill's latest action is an example of his using the judicial system to delay punishment.

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