The hearing began Tuesday before Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills and will resume today.
Hodges' attorneys, led by Robert McDuff of Jackson, seek to convince the court his rights to a fair trial and reliable sentence hearing were violated by ineffective counsel, prosecutorial misconduct and trial errors.
A Lowndes County jury convicted Hodges of capital murder in the death of his girlfriend's brother compounded by her kidnapping. Judge Lee Howard sentenced him to death and 20 years.
Hodges' state appeals have run out.
To bolster their appeal contentions, his attorneys presented seven witnesses Tuesday, including 16th District Attorney Forrest Allgood and his former assistant, now Circuit Judge Jim Kitchens Jr. McDuff sought to show they lied about not telling the court the dead man's mother told them she didn't want Hodges to be executed.
Assistant Attorney Gen. Patrick McNamara respresents the state in the appeal hearing. He termed McDuff's statements "embellishment."
Perhaps the most unusual testimony came from an edited video deposition of Hodges' trial lawyer, Michael Miller, now of Marshall County, Tenn.
Miller admitted by Hodges' trial that his mental state "disintegrated" after he remembered a suppressed sexual molestation, triggered by the name of his alleged attacker on the trial's witness list submitted to him by the prosecution.
"I felt like my heart stopped beating," he said on the video. "Not only was I unqualified to do this defense, I was operating under an extreme disability."
He admitted to taking prescription drugs for extreme anxiety and later being diagnosed with bipolar, manic depressive disorder. He said he drank heavily before and after, but not during the trial, and being ill-equipped to handle Hodges' defense.
His edited testimony, which left out the name of his alleged attacker, insinuated the person was involved with law enforcement, saying the man told him "bad things would happen, if I told - he had his badge and his gun."
During Hodges' trial, Miller said he felt his mind was self-destructing.
"I felt the die was cast and I was stuck there with Quintez, and the train was rolling over us," he said. "It was an impossible situation."
After mental commitment, Miller moved to Tennessee and gave up his legal practice.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.