Court overturns conviction in sheep farmer's death

2011-04-13T14:11:00Z 2014-02-05T04:56:22Z Court overturns conviction in sheep farmer's death Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
April 13, 2011 2:11 pm

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) --- A woman convicted in the 2007 slaying of her sheep farmer husband should get a new trial because testimony from a witness should not have been allowed at trial, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

The appeals court overturned the second-degree murder conviction of Jessica Hill, who is serving a 50-year sentence for the slaying of her husband, Shane Hill, who was shot to death on the sheep farm where he worked in Boone County.

Shane Hill, who carried a pistol while he worked, called 911 twice in six minutes that morning to report he had accidentally shot himself. It was later determined he had been gunned down, court records show.

Two other men, including Jessica Hill's former boyfriend, Daniel Blair, also were convicted in the case.

Blair is serving a life sentence after being found guilty of first-degree murder. Blair's roommate, Aron Moss, was convicted of second-degree murder and is serving a 50-year sentence.

At question is the testimony of Lisa Lewis, who is described in court records as a friend of Blair's and who testified about things Blair told her the day after Shane Hill died.

Court records show that Lewis testified that Blair told her that "they made somebody disappear." She testified that Blair also sent her a text message asking her not to tell anyone about their conservation. He also asked her to provide an alibi for him, records show.

Lewis testified that Blair later told her "they had shot somebody" and that they did it because "they did not like the way he was treating his wife and they would be together no matter what."

Lewis testified that she assumed when Blair said "they" shot someone, he assumed he meant himself and Moss, court records show.

She testified that she had been friends with Blair and Moss for several months but did not know Jessica Hill.

Hill argued in her appeal that Lewis' testimony was hearsay and should not have been allowed at trial.

The court agreed that Lewis' testimony "constitutes hearsay and is not admissible."

The statements, the court said, were material to proving Blair's guilt and to prove that Blair and Moss were at the farm when Shane Hill was shot but did not indicate Jessica Hill "participated in, encouraged, or knew of the crime."

Records do show that Hill and Blair had exchanged messages the morning her husband died. She messaged Blair that her husband had left for work and what kind of vehicle he was driving. She also had expressed to Blair that she wished "Shane would never come home," court documents show.

Records also show that she had on prior occasions told Blair she wouldn't want him to be the one that shot her husband but in her interview with police she said didn't tell anyone to kill her husband, didn't pay anyone to kill him and didn't want it to happen.

The court rejected arguments by Hill that there wasn't sufficient evidence to support her conviction and that her videotaped statements to investigators during a police interview should be suppressed.

Hill's attorney, Angela Campbell, said she was pleased the court reversed Hill's conviction on the hearsay argument.

"There were three issues and we won one and that sends it back for a new trial," Campbell said. "I don't know what our position will be about seeking further review on the other two issues."

She said she had not spoken yet with Hill about the ruling and that a decision to seek further review would not be made for a while.

Telephone messages left for the Iowa attorney general's office Wednesday were not immediately returned.

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