A federal appeals court has ruled that a man convicted of killing a 12-year-old boy in Ohio cannot be executed because of an alleged mental disability.
The U.S. Sixth District Court of Appeals ruled this week that Danny Lee Hill, 50, demonstrates several of the prerequisites to be considered mentally deficient. The ruling upheld Hill’s conviction of murdering 12-year-old Raymond Fife.
Hill was also convicted of raping and torturing the boy. The murder took place in 1985.
However, the appeals court said that because of Hill’s apparent intellectual deficiencies, he cannot be sentenced to the death penalty, reported WFMJ.
The ruling claims that Hill’s IQ varies between a low of 48 and a high of 71. The judges reviewed videotapes of Hill being interrogated and concluded he was “childlike, confused, often irrational, and primarily self-defeating.”
The U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of people with mental disabilities, with a three-part test judging IQ, skill level, and whether the disability showed itself before age 18.
Judges said Hill meets all three measures, reported The Associated Press.
The case is being sent to a lower court for resentencing, although Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said in a statement that he will appeal the decision.
“In my view, under the law and facts, the federal court decision clearly did not give due respect and deference to Ohio’s judges and courts’ determinations required by federal law,” said Watkins.
Watkins told WKBN that over the years, professionals have determined that Hill is not mentally disabled.
“They testified as to his adaptive skills. He could count money… his degree of hygiene, some of the self-care,” he said.
Fife’s mother, who is now 77, also supports an appeal.
“When my husband passed away, the one thing he said was I’ll never get to see him die for what he did,” said Miriam Fife, reported WFMJ.
“It’s not a vengeance I have against him, I just want to know years after I’m gone (that) some bleeding heart doesn’t get in there and get him released, because I don’t care if he’s 80 or 90-years-old, if he’s still alive he’ll be doing the same thing, he’ll be hurting children.”