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6th Cir. Hears Starkly Differing Tales of Murder

CINCINNATI (CN) - The Sixth Circuit listened impassively Wednesday as a government attorney attacked the "flimsy foundation" that brought habeas relief to a convicted child murderer.

Jocelyn Lowe, an assistant attorney general in Ohio, claimed the lower court's March 2013 ruling required a "stacking of inferences" to conclude that Genesis Hill was given an unfair trial following the murder 25 years ago of his 6-month-old daughter.

Domika Dudley's body was found wrapped in trash bags in the alley behind her mother's Cincinnati home on June 2, 1991.

The cause of death was three skull fractures, most likely inflicted by blunt force trauma, although the coroner could not rule out an accidental death.

Teresa Dudley - Hill's girlfriend and Domika's mother - provided testimony that made up the bulk of the State's case against Hill.

According to court records, Dudley and Hill had argued about child support on the day Domika went missing, and a shirt similar to one owned by Hill was found near the body.

Hill admitted to being at Dudley's home on the night of Domika's disappearance.

A grand jury indicted him on murder charges, and he was eventually convicted by a jury that recommended he receive the death penalty.

Hill filed his habeas corpus case in 1998, alleging that the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence during the trial.

Specifically, one of the officers who interviewed Dudley filed a report questioning why she had fled when police arrived at her house and why she "asked for the police to check the alley behind the house (several times)."

The baby's body was found in the alley, but not until a day after Dudley told officers to search it.

The officer's report was not given to Hill's defense attorneys.

U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. granted Hill a conditional writ of habeas corpus in March 2013, after he concluded that "the undisclosed evidence is material; the prejudice to [Hill] is compelling."

But Lowe pointed to several discrepancies in the police report during her argument in front of a Sixth Circuit panel which included Chief U.S. Circuit Judge R. Guy Cole Jr.

Lowe said, "Multiple witnesses testified Dudley was found on the ground crying [by police]" and that she cooperated fully with the investigation into her daughter's disappearance and death.

She disputed Hill's claim that Dudley ran from police when they arrived on the scene, and that her statements about the alleys are ambiguous, as there is an alley on either side of the home.

Although she appeared nervous and stumbled over her words at the onset, Lowe concluded her argument by reminding the panel that Dudley's testimony was not the only evidence in the case.

Specifically, Lowe mentioned the shirt identified as belonging to Genesis, as well as fingerprints on the trash bags in which Domika was found.

Justin Thompson, attorney for Genesis Hill, rejected Lowe's conclusions, and argued the statements made by Dudley in the omitted report "destroy her credibility and undercut the State's evidence."

He argued that Dudley knew she was a suspect and devised a way to blame Genesis.

The attorney also pointed out inconsistencies in grand jury and trial testimony given by Dudley, and noted that she lied about her whereabouts on the night of the murder.

Dudley claimed she was home with Domika all night, but a bartender testified that she was at a local bar at some point that evening.

U.S. Circuit Judge David McKeague asked Thompson whether the underlying theme of Thompson's argument was " that the mother did it."

Thompson said that was partially true. He did allow that the child's death could have been an accident, but that "Dudley lied about where she was and pointed the finger at Genesis."

Judge McKeague asked, "How can the statement about the alley be crippling [to the State's case]?"

Thompson said that if police and Hill's defense team had known about Dudley's "suspicious behavior, the investigation would have been expanded."

He told the panel that the district court's decision should stand because "prejudice can be found from expanded investigations through Brady [material]."

Lowe argued that Dudley's reduced credibility as a witness - given the discrepancies in her testimony - prevent the police report from qualifying as Brady material.

She dismissed the notion of Dudley as the State's "star witness" and said her statements regarding the alley came out of motherly concern for her child.

The panel also included U.S. Circuit Judge Alice Batchelder.

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