Appeals court: Sioux City man sentenced to 50 years in child's death may proceed with appeal

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DES MOINES, Iowa — A Sioux City man serving a 50-year prison sentence on a child endangerment conviction may proceed with his appeal based on a claim that police violated his right to remain silent, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

Paul Hill, 25, claimed in his appeal of his conviction that the defense attorney at his 2010 trial should have moved to suppress statements he made to police in which he admitted to striking the child while buckling her into a car seat on Feb. 17, 2009. She died hours later.

A district court judge convicted Hill in July 2010 and he appealed.

A judge hearing that appeal in 2011 found that Hill had asked to stop at least 11 times during the questioning but a police detective pressed on. The judge found some of the statements at his trial likely would have been suppressed if Hill's attorney had moved to do so at trial. But the judge concluded Hill probably would have been convicted anyway.

A three-member panel of the appeals court hearing the case disagreed and said his statements were obtained in violation of his right to remain silent.

"We hold that but for the admission into evidence of defendant's incriminating statements, there is a reasonable probability the result of the proceeding would have been different," the court said.

Hill is in prison at Fort Dodge. His attorney for the appeal, Hannah Vellinga, declined to comment on the court's ruling. She said the state could seek to have the Iowa Supreme Court review the decision.

A spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General's Office said it is reviewing the ruling and considering options.

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