Ohio AG: Danny Lee Hill has no valid claim to seek new trial

Staff report


The Ohio Attorney General’s office says the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals should deny a request for hiring attorneys to argue that Warren murderer Danny Lee Hill should get a new trial for the 1985 torture and mutilation killing of 12-year-old Raymond Fife.

The grounds for the request relate to evidence presented at Hill’s trial as to whether bite marks on Fife’s genitals were made by Hill.

The March 31 request by Hill’s attorneys was filed under seal, meaning the public cannot see it, but the April 10 response from the Ohio Attorney General’s office is accessible to the public.

It argues that no valid claim relating to bite-mark evidence would give the circuit court reason to allow lawyers to be hired to seek a new trial.

The attorney general’s office says any suggestion by Hill’s attorneys that it has any newly discovered evidence relating to bite marks is a “gross distortion of the role the bite-mark evidence played at his trial.”

First, Fife died of heart and lung failure as a result of the injuries he suffered at the hands of Hill and Timothy Combs, including asphyxiation and multiple trauma, the filing says.

Any new bite-mark evidence “would not absolve [Hill] of murder,” the filing says, noting the other types of lethal trauma the boy suffered.

The attorney general’s office cites an Ohio Supreme Court summary of the trial that says a state-hired bite expert testified that Hill is the person whose bite marks were on Fife’s body.

It recounts that a defense-hired bite expert testified that it was inconclusive whether Hill’s teeth caused the bite marks.

“What I’m saying is either Hill or Combs, or both, could have left some of the marks,” said Dr. Lowell Levine. But he added that at least one bite mark was “most likely” left by Hill.

Allowing testimony by a new expert regarding bite marks 28 years after Hill’s initial trial in Trumbull County would be “nothing more than a new opinion on an old topic, which does not amount to ‘newly discovered evidence,’” the attorney general’s filing says.

Ohio law allows a new trial for “consideration only of facts which were in existence at the time of trial, not opinions, which can be formulated at any time,” the filing says.

Hill, 47, was sentenced to death in 1986 after a trial in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. Combs is serving a life sentence and was not eligible for the death penalty because he was a juvenile at the time of the crime.

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