Monday, March 3, 2008 | 5:28 p.m.
CARSON CITY -- Leonard W. Hill, convicted of killing his live-in girl friend, is going to get a new trial because of mistakes by the Clark County District Attorney’s Office.
Hill was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years for the strangulation death or Robin Martin in December 2005.
The Nevada Supreme Court overturned the conviction because defense lawyers were not given prior notice of testimony by two expert witnesses for the prosecution.
Police were called to the couple’s share apartment after loud arguments. They found the woman’s body on the floor in the bedroom. Hill suffered several cuts on his left forearm and a scratch on his forehead.
Hill argued he was defending himself from a knife attack by Martin.
At the preliminary hearing in justice court in Las Vegas, Medical Examiner Alane Olson testified that a person could die after 60 to 120 seconds of continuous pressure to the neck. But at the district court trial, Olson testified that a person must apply continuous pressure for at least three to four minutes to cause death.
The defense was not advised prior to the trial of the change in testimony. The court said the prosecution’s failure to give prior notice of the changed testimony was a violation of the law “as well as fundamental notions of fairness.”
The changed testimony of Dr. Olson “dealt a severe blow to Hill’s argument that he acted in self defense and he had no chance to get his own expert to rebut the testimony,” said the decision.
And defense lawyers were not notified prior to trial that crime scene analyst Gary Reed would testify at trial that a person who defends himself from a knife attack would suffer gashes or stab injuries to the hands, the webbing of fingers and underside of the arms.
The court said the prosecution never gave any notice, as required, that Reed would testify about defensive wounds.
The decision was signed by Justices James Hardesty and Michael Douglas. Justice Ron Parraguirre dissented, saying Hill could have asked for a continuance of the trial and these two witnesses were subject to cross examination. He said the errors were harmless.