After more than 10 years of legal appeals to the highest federal and state courts, Denny Ross is on track to stand trial a second time for the slaying of Akron teenager Hannah Hill.
Myriad court maneuvers and unlikely twists appear to have ended Tuesday in the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled that prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty against Ross.
He must, however, stand trial a second time for the strangulation death of Hill, an 18-year-old friend whose body was found in the trunk of her car after a weeklong search in May 1999.
Prosecutors are expected to request that a pretrial hearing be scheduled in January and a trial date be set for sometime in 2011.
''We look forward to that day in Summit County court to begin this trial,'' said Ryan Miday, a spokesman for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, whose office is handling the case.
Ross' first trial was aborted amid allegations of juror misconduct. A jury already had voted to acquit Ross of aggravated murder, murder and rape when
Common Pleas Judge Jane Bond declared a mistrial.
The verdicts were never acknowledged. Instead, a series of appeals followed in state and federal courts as Ross' attorneys argued that the verdict forms are valid and a second trial constitutes double jeopardy.
In the meantime, while free on bond in 2004, Ross was convicted of raping an Akron woman. He is serving a 25-year prison term from that case.
During the appeals, Bond was removed and retired Judge Joseph Cirigliano was assigned the case.
He eventually dismissed a rape charge and a death penalty specification but allowed the state to try Ross on a murder charge.
On Monday, the Supreme Court found Cirigliano erred when he granted — and the 9th District Court of Appeals later affirmed — the defense motion beyond a 14-day time limit.
However, in its 5-2 ruling, the court said it could not correct the mistake because the judge's order, although improperly granted, was final and could not be appealed.
''Essentially, the court found [Cirigliano's ruling] was wrong, but it can't be reviewed,'' defense attorney Larry Whitney said.
Ross, now 31, has maintained his innocence through his attorneys. At trial, he did not testify.
In fact, his high-profile defense team, which included Las Vegas attorney David Chesnoff, declined to call a single witness, believing prosecutors failed to prove their case.
Defense lawyers argued Ross was the victim of a ''rush to judgment'' by Akron police detectives bent on saving the department's reputation by making a swift arrest after ignoring days of tips that Hill's car — where her body was stuffed in the trunk — was parked on Caine Road in the Ellet area of Akron.
Prosecutors alleged that Hill went to Ross' Canton Road apartment and died there during a sexual assault and struggle. She was beaten and strangled, and Ross' semen was found on her underwear.
The rest of her clothing was found in a plastic bag outside, under a window of Ross' apartment.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.