Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Notable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972 » John Hill Trial: 1971 - Motive: Failed Divorce, Outburst Leads To Mistrial, Retrial Unnecessary

John Hill Trial: 1971 - Retrial Unnecessary

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The retrial was set and adjourned another three times until finally being put on the docket for November 1972. But before this could happen, on September 24, 1972, John Hill, by now married for a third time, was gunned down at his mansion in the exclusive Houston suburb of River Oaks, in what had all the hallmarks of a contract killing. After several months of investigation, police arrested three people in connection with the case.

Bobby Vandiver and girlfriend Marcia McKittrick admitted complicity, but claimed that they had been hired by a notorious Houston brothel madam, Lilla Paulus. When Vandiver was shot by police in an unrelated incident, McKittrick, promised a 10-year sentence, agreed to testify against Paulus. Additional testimony was provided by Paulus' own daughter. She told the court of overhearing her mother say, "Ash Robinson is looking for somebody to kill John Hill." Eventually Paulus was convicted and sentenced to 35 years imprisonment in 1975.

This extraordinary case reached its conclusion in 1977 when Hill's surviving wife, Connie, and son, Robert, brought a civil suit against Ash Robinson alleging that he had caused John Hill's wrongful death. On this occasion Lilla Paulus' daughter declined to testify, leaving Marcia McKittrick as the main witness against Robinson. A polygraph examination indicated that she was being truthful in saying that Robinson had caused the death of John Hill. A similar test suggested that Robinson was being truthful when he said he hadn't. Given this welter of confusion, the jury acquitted Robinson of collusion in the death of his son-in-law, and the suit was quashed.

Three trials failed to establish Dr. John Hill's guilt or innocence but did provide one of the most remarkable legal sagas of the 20th century. Had a jury been given the opportunity to hear all of the available evidence against Hill, including his sudden and ominous predilection for plying his wife with unaccustomed pastries in the weeks before her death, in all likelihood he would have been convicted of murder. Whether that verdict would have survived the Texas Court of Appeals is something we shall never know.

Colin Evans

Suggestions for Further Reading

Kurth, Ann. Prescription: Murder. New York: New American, 1976.

Thompson, Thomas. Blood And Money. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1976.

Wilson, Kirk. Unsolved. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1989.

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