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January 9, 2013

Double life sentences upheld on appeal

— A Quinlan man has lost the appeals of the back-to-back life sentences he received after being convicted last year of two counts of sexually molesting a child.

The Sixth Court of Appeals in Texarkana issued its opinion Tuesday in the case of Michael Charles Hill.

If Hill survives, he will likely be more than 100 years old before he is ever released from prison.

Hill, 41, was convicted in April 2012 of one count each of sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child by sexual contact. The jury in the case assessed the maximum sentence of life in prison on both counts.

Following a punishment hearing in the 196th District Court, Judge Steve Tittle agreed to stack Hill’s sentences.

Hunt County First Assistant District Attorney Keli M. Aiken filed a motion with the court seeking cumulative sentences in the case, meaning Hill would have to serve the sentences consecutively, rather than concurrently.

The maximum sentences for both charges would typically be 20 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional Division. However, the prospective punishments Hill was facing were enhanced to five to 99 years to life in prison on each count, due to his previous criminal record.

On appeal, Hill argued the judgment was not supported by legally sufficient evidence and that the State failed to give written notice of its intent to “seek an enhanced penalty because of a prior felony conviction.”

But Chief Justice Josh R. Morriss III said Tuesday that both elements were met by the prosecution.

“We affirm the trial court’s judgment because we find that it was supported by legally sufficient evidence and that the State provided notice with respect to the enhancement allegations,” Morriss said.

Prosecutors introduced evidence during the trial that Hill had been convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and felony theft in Dallas County in 2000.

A life prison sentence meant Hill would spend a minimum of 30 years in prison before he would be eligible to be considered for parole. Consecutive life sentences raised the minimum to 60 years in prison.

The two indictments were returned by the Hunt County grand jury in March 2010. They allege that Hill sexually molested a female victim of less than 14 years of age on or about Aug. 22, 2007 and again on Aug. 22, 2008.

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