September 17, 2010 9:58:00 AM
Editor''s note: Due to typing errors this letter, first published in Thursday''s Dispatch, contained omissions. We are reprinting it here in its corrected form.
I have been appalled by the number of reckless comments that have been attached to the story about Quintez Hodges'' appeal. Some comments border on the hysterical. Some may have been uttered in ignorance. I suspect that more than a few were the product of malice. The comments call for an immediate response.
To begin with, nowhere in Judge Mills'' opinion does it say that anyone "lied." That''s because no one did. What he says is that the testimony, which was given by Jim Kitchens at the sentencing hearing of Quintez Hodges, was "false." There is a great difference between giving false testimony and lying under oath.
I may genuinely believe what I remember to be true, raise my right hand, swear to tell the truth, and testify "falsely." That''s not lying. That''s human. No one who is reading this right now can assert that they''ve never made a similar mistake. That''s what, and all, Jim Kitchens did. He was testifying to events that had occurred at Hodges'' guilty plea to a burglary charge some two to three years previous. Usually there there''s a transcript made of those guilty pleas, something you can hold in your hand and actually read. Unfortunately, the transcript of that guilty pleas wasn''t prepared until some six months after Jim Kitchens testified. Consequently, he couldn''t read it to refresh his memory.
What transpired was this: I gave Jim Kitchens, who was an Assistant District Attorney at the time, the files on Quintez Hodges. Hodges had multiple charges, but he was only pleading to one. I asked him to do the guilty plea as I was tied up in a trial in another courtroom and couldn''t do it myself. I felt very strongly about the case, believing Hodges to be dangerous; and I wanted him in the penitentiary if possible. On the way to the courthouse, Jim ran into Scott Rogillio, another Assistant District Attorney, and together they went into the courtroom and handled the plea.
In the event, everything Jim Kitchens testified to was correct except he believed that he was the one who actually stood up in court and did the plea. The transcript shows that it was Scott; however they were both in the same courtroom and heard the same thing.
Mills'' other difficulty with Jim Kitchens'' testimony was that he testified to things that weren''t in the plea transcript. That''s not surprising. We don''t do everything on the record. Conferences with lawyers and witnesses are never on the record; and neither are conferences in chambers with the Judge. These were the very matters that Jim Kitchens was testifying to.
Mills'' opinion never said that I knowingly put on false testimony. I have never done so. Instead, he cited a federal case for the proposition that, and I quote directly from his opinion, "Prosecutors office is a single entity; knowledge of one ADA is attributable to others in the same office," and held that I "should have known" that Jim Kitchens was wrong.
How could I? I wasn''t in the Courtroom when Quintez Hodges plead guilty. There was no transcript for me to read either. I had to rely on the witnesses'' memory, like we do everyday in the courtroom.
On his appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Hodges raised this very issue. If you''re interested, you can find it in Volume 912 of the Southern Reporter, 2nd Series on pages 749 et seq. They essentially found that there was no harm and no foul. If they had believed that any perjury had occurred, they would have immediately taken some action.
Judge Mills has now substituted his opinion for theirs. Why he has done so, I will not attempt to explain. When it comes to the Federal Courts, there are a lot of things I can''t explain.
So no, nobody has been charged with Perjury.
That''s because nobody lied.
Forrest Allgood, Columbus
Allgood is the district attorney for Lowndes, Clay, Oktibbeha and Noxubee counties.