Federal judge tosses out death sentence

By PATSY BRUMFIELD / NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Quintez Wren Hodges’ death sentence was vacated Monday by Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills.
Hodges was convicted Sept. 13, 2001, of the capital murder of his ex-girlfriend’s brother, Isaac Johnson in the Circuit Court of Lowndes County.
In his 75-page opinion, Mills said that after listening to evidence at a March hearing and reviewing the records, he finds that “confidence in the outcome” of the sentencing part of Hodges’ trial “has been undermined.”
A video played at the Oxford hearing showed Hodges’ trial attorney, Michael D. Miller, saying he suffered a nervous breakdown during the proceedings.
Mills’ order said Hodges was denied the opportunity to have his jury make an accurate sentencing determination.
“And it is further convinced” that Hodges’ legal representation “was so lacking” as to render “unreasonable” a later Mississippi Supreme Court decision addressing several factors, including presentation of false evidence and ineffective counsel, during the sentencing phase of his trial.
Mills said District Attorney Forrest Allgood should have known that testimony given at trial by then-Assistant District Attorney Jim Kitchens, now a circuit judge, was false.
Hodges’ attorneys also showed the reasonable likelihood “that the jury’s verdict might have been affected as a result of the false testimony.”
Mills also cited improper and insufficient instructions to the jury about what its choices were for Hodges’ verdict.
State prosecutors have 60 days to vacate his death sentence, start new sentencing proceedings or impose a sentence less than death.
However, Mills denied Hodges a hearing on other claims and denied him permission to appeal those claims not related to the sentencing.
Contact Patsy Brumfield at (662) 678-1595 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.