Ohio killer wants inmate’s execution delayed to allow testimony on mentally disabled claim

By Andrew Welsh-huggins, AP
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ohio killer aims to stop fellow inmate’s execution

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A condemned inmate wants a fellow death row prisoner kept alive at least long enough to testify on his behalf that he is mentally disabled and should not be executed, according to court filings.

Danny Lee Hill, who raped and killed a 12-year-old boy in 1985, wants Kevin Keith’s Sept. 15 execution delayed so lawyers can interview Keith.

Keith, 46, says he’s innocent of killing three people in 1994, including a 4-year-old girl, and has asked Gov. Ted Strickland for mercy. State and federal courts have upheld his conviction and death sentence. The Ohio Parole Board ruled unanimously last month to not recommend clemency.

Hill, whose IQ has been measured between 48 and 71, has argued unsuccessfully for years that he is mentally disabled. The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that an IQ below 71 is one measure of mental disability.

State courts have rejected his arguments and he is now making the claim in federal court. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 ruled that executing the mentally disabled is unconstitutional.

Hill, 43, doesn’t bathe regularly or clean his cell and would not be able to understand the rules of card games, Keith said in a March statement filed in Hill’s court case.

“Danny has issues with his hygiene,” Keith wrote. “His cell has always been horrendous.”

Hill wants U.S. District Court Judge John Adams to delay Keith’s execution until Adams decides whether to allow a hearing on Hill’s claims. At the very least, Hill is asking to delay Keith’s execution until lawyers can interview Keith and produce a document that could be used later.

Hill’s lawyers would rather “proceed at a deliberative and thoughtful pace rather than be rushed to make decisions,” his attorney, Vicki Ruth Adams Werneke, said in a court filing Wednesday.

The state says Hill’s argument has no merit and Adams doesn’t have the authority to delay Keith’s execution.

The state also said Hill’s attorneys don’t need Keith’s execution delayed to gather information.

Federal court rules “provide numerous ways to obtain any relevant information Keith may have before his execution,” Stephen Maher, senior assistant state Attorney General, said in a court filing Aug. 26.

Keith’s attorneys have identified an alternate suspect and provided alibi witnesses. They argue that witness identification of Keith as the shooter was flawed.

Rachel Troutman, Keith’s lead defense attorney, said Wednesday that Keith’s lawyers aren’t involved in Hill’s request, which Troutman said has no bearing on Keith’s innocence claim.

Strickland, a Democrat, has said Keith’s case contains troubling circumstances. In 2008, he overrode the parole board and commuted the death sentence of an inmate who claimed innocence.

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