Mills mulls Hodges’ death-sentence appeals

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Quintez Hodges’ capital murder conviction and death sentence are in the hands of U.S. District Chief Judge Michael P. Mills after two days of evidence hearings.
Chicago psychologist Dr. Antoinette Kavanaugh was Tuesday’s sole witness as Hodges’ attorneys try to convince Mills that the his conviction and sentence should be thrown out because his constitutional rights to a fair trial and a reliable sentence hearing were denied in 2001.
A Lowndes County jury found Hodges guilty in the shooting death of his girlfriend’s brother and of her kidnapping.
Kavanaugh’s multi-hour testimony gave Mills details about Hodges’ life and mental status that his appeals defense says should have been heard by his trial jury but did not happen because his trial counsel never provided it.
Monday, Hodges’ trial attorney said via video that his client experienced a mental “disintegration” just before and during the murder trial because he began to relive a suppressed memory of sexual molestation at age 5.
Assistant Attorney General Patrick McNamara disputed appeals attorneys’ contentions throughout the proceedings.
Hodges’ lead attorney, Robert McDuff of Jackson, told Mills in closing remarks that key trial mistakes contributed to his client’s death sentence.
One, especially, he said, was an erroneous instruction that led jurors to believe that if they couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict, Hodges would get life with parole possible, putting them under “enormous pressure” to ensure Hodges would not be released.
McDuff argued although the Mississippi Supreme Court declared the error “harmless,” that was “completely wrong” and likely led the jury to decide it didn’t ever want him to be parole eligible.
Although Hodges’ trial attorney failed to object to the instruction, the Supreme Court did not bar it from consideration by another appeals court.
Kavanaugh spent nearly 21⁄2 hours answering questions about her investigation into Hodges’ upbringing and other factors that she said forged him into an immature, impulsive person who made very bad choices.
Among those factors, she said, were his extreme poverty, a lack of maternal concern and supervision, his substance abuse and a lack of social development.
Is his poverty an excuse for capital murder? asked McNamara.
“It doesn’t excuse it, it just explains how it came to be,” Kavanaugh noted.

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