UPDATE: Death-penalty case appeal begins in Oxford federal court

By Patsy R. Brumfield / Daily Journal

OXFORD – Quintez Martin’s attorney began Tuesday to try to convince a federal judge that trial errors, a drug-addicted defense attorney and prosecutorial misconduct should overturn his capital murder conviction and death sentence.

Martin was convicted in 2001 by a Lowndes County jury of killing his girlfriend’s brother and kidnapping her and their child afterward.

Appeals attorney Robert McDuff of Jackson told Chief Judge Michael P. Mills that he and co-counsel hope to show the court that serious problems occurred during Martin’s trial – serious enough to deprive him of his right to a fair trial and a reliable sentencing hearing.

Patrick McNamara represents the state and said before a noon break that he doesn’t plan to use any witnesses. During the morning session, however, he cross-examined McDuff’s witnesses.

First on the stand was District Attorney Forrest Allgood, who pushed back against McDuff’s questioning that his office and his assistants prejudiced the jury with false or inadmissible information about Martin.

Jim Kitchens Jr., now a circuit judge, testified second about circumstances and actions taken as Allgood’s assistant that related to a previous conviction of Martin for burglary. The victim allegedly said she did not want Martin to go to prison for his guilty plea.

As the hearing opened, McDuff told Mills his client’s appeal is based on three issues:

• That his trial attorney, Mike Miller, lacked the necessary experience to provide effective counsel in so serious a situation, and that Miller was heavily involved with drugs during the trial.

• The jury was never told that the victim’s mother did not want Hodges to get the death penalty, but preferred life without parole.

• And that prosecutorial misconduct involving testimony about a prior, non-violent crime conviction was untrue and improperly prejudiced the jury.

McDuff also said the jury was improperly instructed by the judge about sentencing choices.

Martin’s appeal already has been denied by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The court reconvenes at 1 p.m.

Read more about this story in Wednesday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.