COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A judge reduced the sentence of an Ohio death row inmate Thursday to 30 years to life after his conviction was overturned based on new evidence suggesting his infant daughter's death was accidental.
Genesis Hill was convicted in 1991 in Cincinnati of aggravated murder for killing his 6-month-old daughter, Domika. Hamilton County prosecutors argued the infant was violently shaken.
Though courts had previously upheld Hill's conviction and death sentence, recent developments brought the circumstances around the girl's death into question.
In February, the 1st District Court of Appeals of Ohio ruled that Hill's attorneys had correctly established his right to an evidentiary hearing claiming he was innocent.
In April, federal Judge Edmund Sargus overturned Hill's death sentence based on evidence that Hill fell off a wall while holding Domika and accidentally crushed the infant's skull with his knee. Sargus wrote that Amy Martin, the Hamilton County deputy coroner who conducted Domika's autopsy, had made "significant revisions to the expert opinion she offered at trial."
In addition, a police report withheld from Hill's attorneys at trial became available later questioned the credibility of the prosecution's main witness — Domika's mother and Hill's girlfriend. That included allegations the baby bore "physical signs" of poor care provided by her mother.
Hamilton County Judge Lisa Allen handed down the new sentence Thursday. Hill is eligible for parole but it's unclear when he might leave prison.
Defense attorney William Gallagher called the new sentence a fair resolution. Though Hill had had recent court victories, those wouldn't have resolved the matter and could have resulted in years of additional legal challenges, Gallagher said.
Hill was the second inmate from Hamilton County to leave death row in recent months after evidence suggested a killing was in fact an accident.
On June 24, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to cancel a scheduled October execution for death row inmate Angelo Fears, after prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed his sentence should be changed to life without parole.
Fears was sentenced to die for the 1997 shooting of a man in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood during a drug robbery. Just as with Hill, while numerous courts upheld Fears' death sentence, a new lawyer argued that the testing of the gun used in the shooting — a Colt Caliber 25 — showed it was prone to firing accidentally and had been subject to a manufacturers' recall for a firing pin malfunction.
Defense attorney Robert Linneman argued in a March court filing that the shooting was unintentional and therefore not a death penalty case. Linneman also argued Fears suffered from intellectual disabilities that should have made him ineligible for the death penalty.
The office of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters agreed earlier this month to removing Fears from death row.
"Looking at the big picture, we felt like this was a fair resolution of the case," said Julie Wilson, a Deters' spokeswoman. She noted that the family of Fears' victim, Antwuan Gilliam, agreed with the change in sentence.