Mills’ death-case order sets off legal reactions

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood will appeal a federal order throwing out a Lowndes County death sentence.
Jan Schaefer, a Hood spokeswoman, said Wednesday that his office will appeal the decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Monday, Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills of Oxford threw out Quintez Hodges’ death sentence, citing serious problems with the man’s trial defense and with what Mills called “false testimony” by then-Assistant District Attorney Jim Kitchens during the trial’s sentencing phase.
Kitchens, now a circuit judge, isn’t commenting publicly, but others are about the ruling that labeled his testimony false.
Forrest Allgood is district attorney in the 16th District, which includes Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee and Oktibbeha counties. Kitchens, who is not the Jim Kitchens on the Mississippi Supreme Court, was Allgood’s assistant before he won a circuit bench seat.
Mills said in his order that Allgood should have known the testimony was false.
“Suffice it to say, I’ve never put on evidence I knew to be false,” Allgood said Wednesday.
Hodges was accused of killing his ex-girlfriend’s brother and he was found guilty in 2001.
Kitchens, who is seeking re-election Nov. 2, declined to speak on the record, although he said he might later.
Spokesmen for the Mississippi Bar and the Commission on Judicial Performance declined to say if the Mills ruling had been brought to their attention.
But it should, said Ben Cooper, an assistant professor who teaches ethics at the University of Mississippi School of Law.
“The Bar and the Commission on Judicial Performance need to look into the situation in this case,” Cooper said.
Cooper described Kitchens’ testimony “at best, mistaken, and at worst, was intentionally calculated to deceive the jury.”
Mills’ order said the false testimony about conversations with Hodges, his mother and his victim’s mother increased the jury’s antagonism toward Hodges and probably contributed to the death penalty decision.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal