In her chambers, away from the jury that had taken nearly three weeks to select, Summit County Common Pleas Judge Jane Bond was facing what one of the assistant county prosecutors would call "a huge moral dilemma."
It was Friday, Oct. 20 of last year, and the panel of five men and seven women hearing the case had been sent home for a long weekend after four days of prosecution testimony.
Time was running out.
It was up to Bond whether the state would be allowed to tell the jury that Denny Ross' blood had been found on the pocket lining of the pants Hannah Hill was wearing when she was killed.
It was the closest thing the state had to a smoking gun.
But it was long after the June 22 deadline Bond had set for the discovery of scientific evidence.
Oddly enough, the state's surprise discovery occurred six days after the defense experts revealed their opinions about what the state didn't have in its bag of physical evidence.
For the defense, the timing of the discovery was just too convenient not to be suspect.
It had been quite a while since Ross' defense team had added to its arsenal two experts with nationally recognized credentials who were willing to open fire on the state's case - a case crafted to prove rape and murder against Ross.
The witnesses were Dr. Cyril Wecht of Pittsburgh, whose history as a pathologist dates to the Kennedy assassination, and Dr. Henry Lee, a Connecticut forensic expert who gained fame during the O.J. Simpson trial.
They were ready to testify that Hannah Hill had not been raped, that there was no evidence Ross had been in contact with the car in which her body was found, and although he and she had "kissed and stuff," none of his DNA was on or in her body.
Wecht was also prepared to go after the state's faltering theory that she had been murdered in Ross' apartment.
"There is a significant absence of evidence that I would expect to find in a residence where a crime such as this occurred," Wecht wrote. "This attack should have created a significant amount of blood, hair and fiber transference."
Furthermore, Wecht also noted that based on the evidence under consideration, "none of the defendant's blood was found on Ms. Hill or on any of the physical items directly connected to Ms. Hill."
Wecht's report was dated Sept. 12, 2000.
Six days later - in direct response to the pending testimony of Wecht and Lee - the state's experts from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation had a second look at the brown corduroy pants and discovered Ross' blood.
How could they have missed it the first time?
"I really don't know," John Greven, one of the two assistant prosecutors on the case, said earlier this year. "You know, a lot of this DNA stuff is microscopic."
For the defense, if his semen was left on her panties as a result of their "kissing and stuff," then it may not have been much of a stretch to imagine that a trace of his blood could have been left on the inside of her pants as well.
But taking such a risk with a jury was another matter - particularly with a client's life at stake.
So when Bond ruled that the pants evidence could be admitted after all, but only as rebuttal to the defense's experts, the defense lawyers decided to sacrifice their experts - that is, they would call neither Wecht nor Lee to testify.
According to Brian LoPrinzi, one of the assistant county prosecutors, that move by the defense underscored how important the tardy discovery really was, and LoPrinzi continued to urge Bond to change her mind.
It also put the question back in Bond's lap.
This was new evidence, LoPrinzi argued, a discovery that was made in good faith.
"Let them bring their experts in," he suggested. "Let us bring the blood evidence in and it will be a fair and truthful trial."
Allowing such evidence at that point would have caused an awkward delay in the middle of the trial because the defense would want time for their experts to conduct their own examination of the newly discovered stain.
Bond didn't buy it.
For Bond held the line, and the state's so-called "pants evidence" was never presented to the jury.
Likewise, though, the jury never heard any of the findings of Cyril Wecht or of Henry Lee.
As the trial progressed, the tardy discovery of blood on the pants would not be the only time an apparent blunder by the state would be transformed into a weapon to use on Ross.
Six months earlier, LoPrinzi had insisted to Bond in open court that on the night police searched Ross' apartment the blood "was everywhere."
But now, six months later, with the trial in its fourth day of testimony, the state still couldn't come up with the first trace of Hannah Hill's blood anywhere in Ross' apartment.
So, using their own witness, the prosecution offered a stunning explanation of why her blood had not been found: An Aluminol test - which is a common chemical process investigators use to make hard-to-see blood luminesce - was never done.
Consequently, nobody would be able to say for sure whether Hannah Hill's blood was there or not.
It just wasn't found.
Accordingly, Bond saw no reason for the defense to call an expert witness to testify about the Aluminol test and what it might have shown - because it wasn't used.
"This investigation was to that extent incompetent," defense counsel Michael Pancer told Bond, "and we should have the benefit of that in the sense that they (the state) should not benefit from their incompetence."
Bond wouldn't hear of it.
"You can't speculate as to what might have happened if they had used other investigative techniques and what a better investigation might have turned up. "The only thing you can do," she said, "is challenge the competency of the testing that was done. You can't come in here and try the police. You cannot do that."
From the outset of the trial, LoPrinzi had intimated to jurors in his opening statement that the key to understanding who killed Hannah Hill was sex.
When detectives popped the trunk to find her, he said, her body was inside, "arms outreached, legs bent up, spread apart."
And he told the jury that "even to the most casual observer, the fact that she was missing her clothes from the waist down and that her shirt, T-shirt and bra were pulled up exposing her breasts, Hannah had been sexually assaulted."
Nowhere after that did he, or anyone else, produce any evidence of injury that suggested rape or any kind of sexual assault had occurred.
Indeed, the closest then-Medical Examiner Marvin Platt came to involving sex in her death at all was that in his medical opinion "she obtained a seminal emission on the night of her death."
But he couldn't say from whom.
LoPrinzi waited until closing arguments, however, to deal with the notion that he had presented nothing at trial to support the crime of rape.
He simply stated that he had.
"His semen is in her underwear," he told the jurors. "You have evidence that there was a rape. And her clothes were at his house. His apartment. What more do you need?"
The fact was the state scored no home runs.
First there was Siddharth Patel, a senior research chemist for Goodyear, furnishing a cautious statement about his "feeling" as to the tiny particles of an unknown material taken from the victim's lips.
He said it appeared to be "identical to the - one of the materials in the cast material" which was used on Denny Ross' broken left hand.
According to Patel, that one material was made of calcium and sulfur, more specifically calcium sulfate.
On cross-examination, however, Patel acknowledged that he could not detect potassium in the sample taken from the victim's lips.
And potassium, he said, is a material used in plaster of Paris to make it more pliable for casts.
He could detect it in Ross' cast, but not in the particles taken from Hannah Hill's lips.
Later, over the objections of the defense, Assistant County Prosecutor John Greven would have a way around all that in final arguments.
He would breeze past the discrepancy, telling jurors: "The stuff that Dr. Platt swabbed off her face is the same kind of stuff that Denny Ross just happened to be wearing on his arm."
Then there was Dr. Thomas Marshall - the Akron odontologist who had served for years as the county's dental expert in homicide investigations.
Initially, Marshall said he was unable to say that a mark on Hannah Hill's right elbow "matched to that degree which I need to confirm" a bite mark left by Ross or her boyfriend, Brad Oborn.
Further study permitted him to conclude it was not Oborn, but it could have been Ross.
But once again, in cross examination, the competence of the local crime scene fact gathering came under fire.
Marshall testified that although a bite mark was suspected, apparently nobody attempted to gather saliva samples from around the area to lift any DNA left by the attacker.
The DNA might not have been picked up anyway, he said, because "only 75 percent of the population are (saliva) secretors where they would pick up DNA."
Ultimately he agreed that such a test is important for crime scene investigations and that someone should have tried to gather it.
"So you did nothing while you were there to ensure that this procedure you consider important was done," defense attorney Michael Pancer asked. "Is that fair to say, sir?"
"It's fair to say," Marshall answered.
Pancer then began coaxing Marshall into testimony about his views of the defense's dental expert, Dr. Michael Sobel of Pittsburgh - a witness who had yet to be called.
Sobel was apparently ready to testify that the so-called bite mark was more likely an impression from a hair band found in the trunk, under the body.
But Marshall said he didn't know about the hair band until the night before he testified, when prosecutors showed it to him.
A chilling notion of what was about to happen may have occurred to LoPrinzi at about the midpoint of Marshall's cross-examination.
"I don't know why," LoPrinzi told Bond at a sidebar, "but for some reason it appears that they're trying to get in Dr. Sobel's report and put in all this information and maybe not call Dr. Sobel."
His complaint would prove to be prophetic.
For in the afternoon session after Marshall was excused, and the state rested its case, the defense began the customary formality of attempting to get all the charges dismissed.
Bond would only drop kidnapping, make a record of what both sides agreed would go to the jury, and turned to defense attorney David Z. Chesnoff.
"That being completed, counsel," Bond said, "are you ready to proceed with evidence on behalf of the defense?"
Halftime was over.
It was now time for the much-anticipated defense performance to begin.
But Chesnoff had a surprise.
"Your honor," he said, "based on the state of the evidence, Denny Ross rests."
Gasps were heard throughout the courtroom.
According to a veteran court worker whose eyes were trained on LoPrinzi, the assistant county prosecutor turned ashen.
For 17 months, Denny Ross had sat in jail awaiting this moment.
But it wasn't over just yet.Ohio.com extra: Read the Akron Beacon Journal's 2001 eight-