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US Supreme Court denies Danny Lee Hill new trial

WARREN — The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to grant Danny Lee Hill a new trial.

With the denial Monday, only one legal challenge to Hill’s conviction and death sentence remains, according to the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s office, which is “pleased” with the high court’s decision, according to a news release.

Hill’s attorneys asked the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s decision refusing to grant him a new trial, but the court decided Monday to deny the petition.

Hill was sentenced to death after he was convicted in 1985 for the rape and aggravated murder of Raymond Fife, 12, of Warren. His co-defendant, Timothy Combs, died in prison at age 50 in 2018 while serving a life sentence. Combs was 17 when he and Hill, who was 18 at the time, stopped Fife on Sept. 10, 1985, in a wooded area near Palmyra Road SW, as the boy rode his bike to a Boy Scouts meeting. Fife died two days later after he was beaten, sexually tortured, strangled with his underwear, set afire and left for dead. He was barely alive when he was found several hours later by his father and brother-in-law.

“Since 1985, when Hill was convicted for the rape and aggravated murder of (Fife), the Hill case has been reviewed numerous times by state and federal courts. In 2015, nearly 30 years after committing his offenses, Hill filed a motion for a new trial based upon ‘newly discovered bite-mark evidence.’ That motion was properly denied by visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove and affirmed by the state appellate courts.

“After state review, the Supreme Court of the United States has upheld that decision. These decisions recognize the need for the finality of judgment, especially in these cases where guilt was established fairly by state court judges or juries,” the news release from Prosecutor Dennis Watkins states.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is still considering whether Hill qualifies for the death penalty — because of questions about his level of intelligence. The court heard arguments in December.

Because he was a few months shy of his 18th birthday, Combs was not eligible for the death penalty, as Hill was.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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