Saturday, November 18, 2006

Criminal (In)Justice: The "60 Freeway Slayer"

This is the first of two articles dealing with the state of the criminal justice system, at least as it is constituted in California.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office was able to convict accused "60 Freeway Slayer" suspect Ivan Hill in the rape and strangulation murders of six prostitutes during a ten-week period starting in November, 1993. The jury also convicted Hill of “special circumstance” allegations of multiple murders and having a prior murder conviction. The death penalty phase of the trial will begin next month.

At the time of Hill's arrest for the "60 Freeway" killings, he was in prison for robbery, attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon (which are all felonies), and was set to be released in three months.

Here’s the kicker: the prior murder conviction was in 1989 – Hill served a maximum of four years, ten months for the 1989 murder conviction.

Murder is generally defined as:

[T]he killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law. In the U.S., special statutory definitions include murder committed with malice aforethought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another serious crime, as robbery or arson (first-degree murder), and murder by intent but without deliberation or premeditation (second-degree murder).

This means Hill killed someone intentionally; inadvertent killings are (usually) considered manslaughter.

In an interview, LA County District Attorney Steve Cooley said Hill had been convicted of a total of eight killings, implying that (perhaps) the 1989 conviction was for two earlier homicides. If this were indeed the case, Hill would have served two years, five months for each of the killings.

Let’s look at the timeline here:
  • 1989: Hill convicted of murder (possibly two, as noted above)
  • 1993-1994: “60 Freeway Slayer” killings (first body discovered November 1, 1993; last found January 12, 1994); six dead
  • 1994: Hill convicted of robbery, attempted robbery, and assault with a firearm
  • 2003: Hill arrested for “60 Freeway” killings, three months before scheduled release for the 1994 convictions (served approximately nine years)
  • 2006: Hill convicted in Freeway case, penalty phase to begin next month.

If Hill were convicted in the 1989 cases on January 1 and began the “60 Freeway” killings as soon as he got out, he would have served 58 months, for two murders, before being released to kill again.

This is unconscionable.

Given that Hill’s victims in the current case were all African-American prostitutes, it stands to reason that any earlier victims would also have been African-American – serial killers tend to stick within their own race and to chose a specific demographic (or image) for their victims. Could the fact that the earlier victims were black have had something to do with Hill’s obscenely-early release?

British politician William Gladstone once said, "Justice delayed, is justice denied." Justice was not necessarily delayed in Hill's first imprisonment in 1989 (if it was, in fact, his first, which is doubtful), but it was certainly perverted. LESS THAN FIVE YEARS for murder. They've got to be kidding, especially in light of nine years for the 1994 convictions.

Of course, it is possible Hill escaped from prison, but it is much more likely he was paroled. Parole boards, by and large, tend to be made up of well-meaning but incredibly na├»ve people, the ones who want so desperately to believe that “he didn’t kill” because he didn’t want to kill, not because there were no young African-American hookers in the Super-Max cell block with him. Remember the scene in Backdraft, where Robert DeNiro and Billy Baldwin go to Donald Sutherland’s parole hearing? It’s just like that.

This is particularly ironic in view of last night’s episode of “Law and Order”, in which main plot was that the killer had been convicted of two separate strings of murders and escaped to kill five or six young schoolgirls. In the sub-plot, the father of one of the victims gunned down the mass-murderer after McCoy and company were unable to pursue a death-penalty case against him. The father, in his trial, claimed temporary insanity, but – after being cleverly maneuvered by McCoy – blurted out, “I did what needed to be done.” Although I missed portions of the program, it appeared the killer had managed to avoid execution even after having received the death penalty in his earlier trials.


  1. Your totally wrong about a murder conviction in 1989...Mr.Hill went to prison for an armed robbery at a pharmacy in Pomona. They didn't match up his DNA to the murders till 2003

  2. All of the stories cited mention the 1989 murder conviction. I'm not naive enough to believe the media is always right (Time's "We're Winning" cover, anyone?), but I don't think they would all make the same mistake.

  3. The prior murder conviction they must be refering to was the murder of Thomas Leavall back in 79 at a liquor store in glendora. Two other men were also convicted along with Mr.Hill, but he was still a minor & sentenced to juvenile detention. The 86 & 87 murders weren't DNA matched till 03.

  4. While awaiting trial Ivan Hill spent much time in men's central jail. I spent seven of my longest months of life caged as this animal's neighbor. However I was completely unaware of his charges. The man had no remorse. He is strictly evil. If he had the chance I am most certain I would have been a statistic. He made life miserable. I am against the death penalty for fear only enters these killers briefly as opposed to life long hell in prison. Any questions contact me at