WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins is speaking out following a court of appeals ruling that determined convicted murderer Danny Lee Hill should not be executed.
“We’re in the ninth inning,” Watkins said. “We went a long way, we fought hard and we’re entitled to play this out.”
Hill was found guilty of the 1986 attack, rape and murder of 12-year-old Raymond Fife. Hill was 18 at the time of the murder.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal court’s decision that upheld Hill’s death sentence.
The appeals court wants Hill resentenced without the death penalty, claiming there were errors in the ruling that Hill was not mentally disabled. It says there was clear and convincing evidence that he is, in fact, mentally disabled.
“I am just hopeful and, in the strongest terms, requesting Attorney General Mike DeWine to appeal this to the full panel of judges in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and then if necessary, go to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Watkins said.
Watkins said not enough credit was given to witnesses, including mental health experts who determined Hill was not disabled.
“They testified as to his adaptive skills. He could count money, his hygiene, his degree of hygiene, some of the self-care.”
Watkins said one witness testified that a person who was mentally disabled would not call a newspaper to hold a press conference, as Hill did.
Even though there were also witnesses claiming Hill was mentally disabled, Watkins said it’s up to the judge to decide their credibility — and the judge has already decided.
“We shouldn’t re-try and substitute our judgments where state court systems do their jobs.”
Miriam Fife, the victim’s mother, told WKBN on Monday that she won’t stop fighting for justice for her son.