Hodges v. State, No. 2002-DP-00337-SCT.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtSmith
Citation912 So.2d 730
PartiesQuintez Wren HODGES v. STATE of Mississippi.
Decision Date09 June 2005
Docket NumberNo. 2002-DP-00337-SCT.
912 So.2d 730
Quintez Wren HODGES
v.
STATE of Mississippi.
No. 2002-DP-00337-SCT.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
March 10, 2005.
Rehearing Denied June 9, 2005.

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Office of Capital Defense Counsel, attorneys for appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Melanie Kathryn, Dotson Marvin L. White Jr., attorneys for appellee.

EN BANC.

SMITH, Chief Justice, for the Court.


¶ 1. Quintez Wren Hodges appeals his capital murder conviction and sentence of death determined by a Lowndes County Circuit Court jury. The jury returned a guilty verdict against Hodges, finding that he killed Isaac Johnson during the commission of a felony; therefore, Hodges committed capital murder pursuant to Miss.Code Ann. § 97-3-19(2)(e). The jury also returned a guilty verdict against Hodges for the kidnaping of Cora Johnson. After a sentencing hearing, the jury determined that Hodges should be given the

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penalty of death. The trial court entered judgment and sentenced Lynch to death by lethal injection. Hodges was also sentenced to a term of twenty years for the kidnaping conviction. The trial court denied Hodges' motion for a new trial, and he filed his notice of appeal with this Court.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 2. Hodges was born on October 14, 1980. In the summer of 1997, Hodges met thirteen year old Cora Johnson during a visit to play basketball with her brother, Isaac Johnson. Hodges and Cora began having a romantic relationship, and in late 1997 Cora became pregnant with Hodges' child. Their child was born on September 16, 1998.

¶ 3. Cora and Isaac Johnson lived with their mother, Bessie Tatum, in Lowndes County, Mississippi. Approximately four months into Hodges and Cora's relationship, Hodges began breaking into Cora's home without permission. Cora and her family repeatedly demanded that Hodges cease such actions. They contacted both the police and Hodges' mother in response to these repeated burglaries. Cora also warned Hodges that she would break up with him if he persisted in breaking into her home. However, Hodges continued to burglarize Cora's home, and she ended the relationship in January, 1998.

¶ 4. On one occasion in May of 1998, Cora came home to find that Hodges had, once again, burglarized her home. Cora and her mother found Hodges hiding under Cora's bed and immediately contacted the police, and Hodges was arrested. Hodges pled guilty to the burglary of Cora's home on November 17, 1998. During the time of this arrest and guilty plea, Hodges was also under indictment for three additional charges: breaking into a school, burglarizing the home of another female victim, and sexual assault of that victim. Pursuant to a plea bargain, Hodges plead guilty to the burglary of Cora's home and was sentenced to six months in the Regimented Inmate Discipline program (hereinafter RID). The other charges were retired and placed on hold in the case files.

¶ 5. During his six months in the RID program, Hodges contacted Cora. Both Cora and her mother knew that their daughter needed a father figure and Cora informed Hodges that she wanted him to be a part of their daughter's life. During Hodges' term in the RID program, Cora sent various letters. In some letters, Cora admitted she still had feelings for Hodges and that she might consider reconciling if he would turn his life around and stop breaking into her home. In other letters she informed Hodges that he might not be the child's biological father and that she had a new boyfriend. However, Cora ultimately informed Hodges, both orally and in writing, that their romantic relationship was over.

¶ 6. Hodges was released from the RID program on June 29, 1999. Upon his release, Hodges immediately contacted Cora, and she arranged for Hodges to see his daughter. During this visit, Hodges ignored the child and spent the entire time making sexual advances toward Cora. Hodges became angry that Cora did not want to get back together. The weekend prior to the murder, Hodges was visiting his friend Anthony Betts. During this visit with Betts, Hodges had talked to Cora on the phone and later informed Betts that he was going to buy a gun and kill somebody with it. According to Betts, he did not take Hodges seriously because he knew him and figured he would not do something like that.

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¶ 7. On the night of July 20, 1999, Isaac, Cora, the child and Harold Jackson (Cora's new boyfriend) were spending the evening at Cora's home. Hodges and Betts were visiting the home of Reginald Martin, who lived seven houses down from Cora. Between nine and ten p.m., Betts called Cora and asked if she would bring the child to Martin's house, so that Hodges could visit with her. Cora refused and told Betts that she had company. Around midnight, Hodges called Cora and asked again if she could bring the child to Martin's house. They had a conversation, and Hodges kept telling Cora he was not going to let her get off the phone. Hodges was angry during the conversation, and Cora finally hung up the phone. According to Betts, when Cora finally ended the conversation, Hodges did not talk, he did not laugh, he just sat down. A couple hours later, Hodges left Martin's house and returned home.

¶ 8. Hodges went home and stole his mother's snubnosed,.32 caliber RG pistol and her gray Oldsmobile. Hodges then put on black shoes, black pants, back shirt, a beige ski mask and black gloves. He then took the gun and drove to Cora's neighborhood where he parked two houses down from Cora's house. Cora, in the meantime, sent Harold Jackson home and went to bed. Isaac was talking to his cousin on the phone when Cora went to bed. Around 2 a.m., Isaac told his cousin that he heard a noise in the back of the house, and he saw a shadow go across the hall. Isaac then called for Cora, thinking she was still awake and told his cousin that he would call him back.

¶ 9. At this point, what happened exactly is unknown. During the trial the State put forth testimony and evidence that the back door to Cora's house was locked and when Bessie Tatum left home at 9:30 p.m. the door was in perfect condition and had not been tampered with. Hodges had been told repeatedly that he was not invited into Cora's house and Hodges also knew that Cora did not want to see him. There was evidence of forced entry through the back door. The back door's lock had been jimmied. There were pry marks left on the back door and pieces of freshly scattered foam and weather stripping lying on the ground around the door frame. Mark Miley, a criminal investigator, testified that the foam and weather stripping was fresh because the wind had not blown it away and it had not been walked upon. During the police investigation, a screwdriver, a knife and a pair of pliers were found on the entry table next to the back door.

¶ 10. After Isaac told his cousin that he would call him back, he went to investigate the noise and shadow. Isaac saw Hodges in his black clothes while holding a gun. Isaac was unarmed, and the family did not own a gun. Hodges informed the police that he thought Isaac was going for a gun but later conceded that he did not see Isaac with a gun. Hodges then shot Isaac once in the stomach. Isaac managed to move from the living room into his mother's bedroom where he collapsed and never got back up. As Isaac was going into his mother's bedroom, Hodges went to the take the other phone off the hook. According to Dr. Steven Hayne, Isaac was shot approximately ½ inch to the left of his mid-abdominal wall from a distance of 1½ to 2 feet away. As a result of the damage caused by the bullet, 2½ quarts of blood pooled within Isaac's abdominal cavity. According to Dr. Hayne, there were no signs of a struggle or fight and it took about 5½ to 10 minutes for the shock to set in and for Isaac to die. Dr. Hayne testified that the cause of death was homicide, caused by a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

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¶ 11. After shooting Isaac, Hodges went to Cora's room where she had just awakened. According to Cora he came into her room telling her to get her stuff and that she was going with him. She told Hodges that she was not going anywhere with him so he struck her across the head with the gun. Cora then woke her daughter and prepared to leave with Hodges. Cora walked into her mother's bedroom and saw Isaac sitting in the dark, on the floor against the wall. Thinking that Isaac was hiding from Hodges, Cora whispered to him to call 911. At this time, Cora was unaware that Isaac had been shot. When Hodges saw Cora leaving her mother's bedroom, he grabbed her and told her not to act stupid because he had a gun. Hodges then pushed Cora out the back door and took her to where he had parked the Oldsmobile. Holding the gun on Cora and her daughter, Hodges drove to Alabama. During the drive to Alabama, Hodges forced Cora to throw his ski mask out of the window. During the trial, the defense brought out the fact that Cora had ample opportunity to escape from Hodges if she really wanted to leave. However, Cora stated that she did not go because "he had a gun and he was probably going to shoot me and my daughter."

¶ 12. In the meantime, Hodges' mother, Johnnie Pearl Hodges, contacted the police, reporting that her car had been stolen. Around 3 p.m. Bessie Tatum called home to check on her children and discovered that the phone line was busy. She tried to call again and received another busy signal. She then rushed home to find Isaac dead and Cora and Annasheika missing. Bessie Tatum ran to her neighbor's home where...

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