Federal Judge Rules That a Former Mississippi Prosecutor, Now a Judge, Lied in Court

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

This week, Federal District Court Judge Michael Mills ordered a new sentencing trial for convicted murderer Quintez Hodges this week. Hodges is currently on death row in Mississippi.

But it’s Mills’ reason for ordering a new trial that comes as a surprise: Mills ruled that former Mississippi Assistant District Attorney James Kitchens, Jr. lied under oath during Hodges’ trial.

The facts are a bit complicated, but in brief, Kitchens was involved in a prior prosecution of Hodges for robbery. At Hodges’ death penalty trial, Kitchens testified that Hodges was given a break in that case. It was part of the prosecutions effort to show a lack of remorse and criminal history as aggravating factors deserving of the death penalty. Mills ruled that Kitchens lied under oath when he testified that the victim of the earlier robbery asked at the time that Hodges be given a light sentence. Mills found that Kitchens then lied again in Mills’ court during a hearing on Hodges’ post-conviction petition.

From Mills’ ruling:

The testimony of Mr. Kitchens at Petitioner’s trial and in this Court is factually at odds with what is contained in the record, and DA Allgood should have known that the testimony given by ADA Kitchens was false…

The Court determines that the State court reached a decision based upon an unreasonable determination of facts and involving an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.  Petitioner presented the State court with evidence to demonstrate that the testimony given at his capital murder trial was false, and that the prosecution should have known it was false.  He has also shown that there exists a reasonable likelihood that the jury’s verdict might have been affected as a result of the false testimony. In this instance, the State, seemingly unconcerned with the accuracy of the testimony to be given in a trial where the result could be death, provided the jury with false information.

Kitchens is now a circut judge for Mississippi’s 16th Judicial District.

Regular readers will also recognize “DA Allgood” as District Attorney Forrest Allgood, the Mississippi prosecutor whose name has graced this site due to his copious use of disgraced forensic specialists Steven Hayne and Michael West, his murder convictions of two men later exonerated by DNA evidence, his prosecution of Tyler Edmonds, and, most recently, his use of Hayne and West in winning a murder conviction for Eddie Lee Howard. That Allgood would provide a jury with false information in a murder case isn’t terribly surprising. He’s done it before, and with far more outrageous results. But it’s nice to see this come from a federal judge, and a fairly conservative one at that.

It will be interesting to see if Kitchens or Allgood face any legal or professional sanction from this.

(Via NMiss Commentor)

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27 Responses to “Federal Judge Rules That a Former Mississippi Prosecutor, Now a Judge, Lied in Court”

  1. #1 |  Potential LVMPD Victim | 

    “It will be interesting to see if Kitchens or Allgood face any legal or professional sanction from this.”

    If we’re betting on when they do, I’ll take the over on “never.”

  2. #2 |  Aresen | 

    It will be interesting to see if Kitchens or Allgood face any legal or professional sanction from this.

    Meanwhile, I will keep an eye out for airborne porcines.

  3. #3 |  Jane | 

    I agree. Nothing will happen to either one of them. Kitchens, I believe, is up for reelection in November. Mills’ opinion probably only enhances his chances of being reelected.

  4. #4 |  Lior | 

    First, it is sad to see that the States are so bad at policing themselves that the only avenue for relief from their abuses is for Federal courts to intervene in state trials.

    Second, to the extent I understand the various “immunities” the US Supreme Court has invented, a prosecutor could kill the defendant, explain that in his discretion this was the best outcome for society, and argue that he is therefore immune from suit. In addition, since the Supreme Court has never ruled that a left-handed prosecutor killing the defendant with a wrench in the library violates anyone’s civil rights, he enjoys qualified immunity from civil suit.

    Well, in truth I know that this is an exaggeration, but not much of one. I would be tremendously surprised if Kitchens is ever prosecuted for the perjury, Algood for suborning it, or even if either is disbarred.

  5. #5 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “It will be interesting to see if Kitchens or Allgood face any legal or professional sanction from this.”

    Is Jim Bell free yet?

  6. #6 |  TomMil | 

    Here’s the thing, I think everybody lies, at least a little. A significant amount of it occurs under oath but even in those situations it is a matter of degree. In the grand scheme of things, the spouse who says, “I never banged the nieghbor, ” is far less reprehensible than this individual who’s only motive seems to be that he wants to be (at least partially) responsible for the death of another human being. It’s enough to make this atheist pray for a hell.

  7. #7 |  EH | 

    #6: Prosecutors aren’t “everybody,” they’re sworn officers of the court.

  8. #8 |  Marty | 

    we need a blog the shows the good cops and prosecutors and politicians… but, who’d follow a blog that only posted a couple articles every month?

  9. #9 |  Michael Chaney | 

    We’ll call it “false testimony” so that he can be “sanctioned” by the bar or something. If we used the real term – perjury – someone might realize that he belongs in jail….

  10. #10 |  Marty | 

    Jim Bell was supposed to be released this month…

  11. #11 |  David in NYC | 

    @Marty #8 —

    I would say that “a couple articles every month” indicates that you are an extreme optimist. I’d be surprised if there were a couple articles a year in that category.

  12. #12 |  roy | 

    Forget “sanctions” or even “perjury” — charge him with attempted murder.

  13. #13 |  takoyaki | 

    When I was younger, I seriously considered becoming a cop. I sent for, and received, dozens of application packages from various state, city and fed law enforcement agencies. On every single one of them, a bust for a crime of “moral terpitude”–which included lying under oath, falsifying official paperwork, etc. was an automatic disqualifier. The impression I got was that a LEO with such a bust on his record would be a liability on the witness stand should his record be disclosed. My question is how is this handled when a current LEO is found to have committed an act of moral terpitude but whose punishment is handled administratively such as reduction in grade, letter of reprimand, etc. and is allowed to stay on the force but then takes the witness stand in future cases? Are these administrative punishments expunged from the LEO’s record (or even inserted in the first place) after a certain period? Are defense lawyers allowed to disclose such past behavior? Are they even allowed access to such records? Doesn’t such a disclosure seriously tarnish the prosecution’s case, or is there usually a preponderance of other evidence and officer testimony which “validates” the testimony of the questionable LEO? Any lawyers out there with experience in this? I’m seriously curious.

  14. #14 |  Potential LVMPD Victim | 

    #4: I agree with the main thrust of your argument (ie that prosecutorial immunity is regularly and abhorrently abused and should be abolished), but I wanted to clear a couple things up.

    Prosecutorial immunity from civil damages suits isn’t qualified, it’s absolute. Note that this does not mean it’s absolute in scope; the prosecutor still must be acting within the scope of his “official responsibility” to receive such immunity. Rather, it’s absolute in “level,” meaning that when it applies, it applies to any and every horrible act the prosecutor undertakes within the scope of his “official responsibility.”

    The prosecutor who kills a man in the library with a monkey wrench will be on the hook for money damages as the defendant in a wrongful death suit (and, hopefully, criminal murder charges). The prosecutor who hides exculpatory evidence, or lies on the stand during trial, or engages in other repugnant “techniques” to get a precious conviction acts within his “official responsibility” and is thus immune from civil suits for money damages. From a moral perspective, I see no difference between willfully sending an innocent man his death to win a conviction and stabbing a stranger on the street to steal his wallet. But prosecutors who do the former won’t have to pay damages to the victim’s estate, while muggers who do the latter theoretically will (though they’ll often impecunious, and thus judgment-proof).

    Also, absolute prosecutorial immunity is entirely a creature of judge-made common law. Congress and the state legislatures could (and should) abolish it by statute. But, unfortunately, the sun will swallow the Earth before that ever happens.

  15. #15 |  Pablo | 

    # 13–takoyaki–I cant speak re: other states but under GA law any admissible testimony (e.g. not conjecture, hearsay, etc) that would call into question a witness’ credibility is admissible in a criminal case. If a lawyer is doing his/her job then the cop’s personnel record is available in this state via an open records request. So any official citizen complaints should be available, along with any documented disciplinary action. Of course if a formal complaint is not made or disciplinary action not taken then there is nothing to go on.

    I know that in the wake of the Kathryn Johnston incident a lot of drug cases got dismissed due to the involvement of those particular cops.

  16. #16 |  ktc2 | 

    Perhaps a law simply stating that it is not in the official duties of any prosecutor to commit a criminal offense, and if they do they are not acting in their official capacity thus they have no immunity.

    Yeah, I know, good luck getting such common sense into law. : (

  17. #17 |  Joe | 

    Kitchens cooked the evidence!

  18. #18 |  Sky | 

    Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that in the overwhelming majority of cases involving Allgood, Kitchens, Hayne and West, the defendants are black?

    Racists bastards!

  19. #19 |  Salvo | 

    “It will be interesting to see if Kitchens or Allgood face any legal or professional sanction from this.”

    Heh. Good one, Radley. Somebody’s quite the comedian tonight.

  20. #20 |  nojusticeinms | 

    Maybe they will start looking at other cases in MS that these people were on. some innocent people might be released. Then maybe they will look at the others that do the same, just to make a name for themselves. Send someone into court to watch the proceedings without any notice …..

  21. #21 |  pam | 

    and he’s not the only lying prosecutor in Miss’ippi willing to present evidence and testimony they know is false. I know two in Lee County who haven’t gotten caught and probably won’t.

  22. #22 |  pam | 

    sky, Tyler Edmonds was a 13 year old white child. These 4 are an equal opportunity destoryer.

  23. #23 |  Sky | 

    I know ALL about Tyler’s case. I wasn’t referring to his case at all. Cory Maye, Hodges, Brooks and Brewer (the 2 recently acquitted) are all black which makes my comment (“the overwhelming majority of cases involving Allgood, Kitchens, Hayne and West”) correct.

  24. #24 |  pam | 

    yes, I agree with you Sky, I was just pointing out that I think Allgood, Kitchens, Hayne and West don’t care who they destroy and will with blind vengeance go after a 6th grader.

  25. #25 |  Karma | 

    I agree with pam, they are just ready to ruin everyones lives, it has nothing to do with the color. In starkville they often go after the students and turn what should be misdemeanors (if they should be charged at all) into felonies. I think they tend to go after who they think the voters in that area would be pleased the most with….black people in white towns, “spoiled college students (who are not residents so cant vote)” in poor areas. They are just all around evil people and i am so glad that they are finally being exposed

  26. #26 |  Lowndescoiscorrupt | 

    I know nothing about this particular case but, can tell you about countless others! There is absolutely NOTHING fair about Kitchens! I know for an absolute FACT that he has not only intimidated the jury but, on numerous occassions, left his bench to take time to try and persuade the jury by disclosing “so called facts” concerning another pending case against the defendant that had not yet gone to trial! What is fair about that? Not only that…the investigator was caught “RED”-HANDED in a BALL FACE LIE ON THE STAND…OPEN PERJURY AT IT’S FINEST!! Do you think the case was dismissed?? Heck No!! Lowndes County is full of these type people but, you better know that the truth shall prevail and every lie shall be uncovered!! I say REOPEN EVERY CASE!! There’s no telling how many people have been convicted of crimes they didn’t commit or didn’t stand a chance at having a fair trial.

  27. #27 |  Roy | 

    I wonder if we need to watch that “V” for Vendetta movie again. It seems to be coming to that.