5th Circuit: Hodges deserves new sentencing in murder case

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

NEW ORLEANS – Quintez Hodges should be re-sentenced in a 1999 Lowndes County murder case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said.

Hodges’ death sentence was thrown out in 2010 by Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills in Oxford, after Hodges’ legal team asked his review of sentencing instructions to a jury saying he would be eligible for parole on a life sentence.

Friday, the New Orleans appeals court said it agreed with Mills’ decision to order a new sentencing for Hodges.

The Fifth Circuit judges also called “unreasonable” an earlier Mississippi Supreme Court ruling that said the error was harmless for Hodges.

Hodges shot Isaac Johnson in 1999 after he broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house. Then he kidnapped the woman and her baby girl, drove them to Alabama where the woman said he raped her in the vehicle.

Later that year, a Lowndes County grand jury indicted him on a capital murder charge during the commission of a burglary. He also was charged with kidnapping.

Hodges’ appeals attorneys insisted the jury instruction violated his rights to due process and motivated the death decision.

The Fifth Circuit decision said, “it is undisputed that the state trial court erroneously instructed the jury that there was a third sentencing option of life with the possibility of parole.

“It is also undisputed that the court erroneously instructed the jurors that if they could not unanimously agree on punishment, the court “must sentence the defendant to a term of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.”

The judges also said Hodges was denied “a reliable sentencing hearing” in violation of his right to due process.

For more details, read Saturday’s Daily Journal or come back to NEMS360.com.