Hodges given life sentence

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 26, 2004

LINDEN — A 25-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison for the Sept. 1, 2000, murder of his 67-year-old next-door neighbor Wednesday in the Marengo County Courthouse.

A jury convicted Richard Hodges of capital murder during the robbery of Edward Phillips in a trial that lasted two days.

District Attorney Greg Griggers said the jury came back with a verdict of guilty on charges of robbery and robbery first-degree. He also said that Hodges received life in prison without the opportunity for parole for the charge of capital murder.

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Defense attorneys Brooker Forte and Kyra Sparks opened the second day of the trial by calling Jacqueline Hill-Gordon, who was Hodges’ social worker during his time at Tyler Hardin Secured Mental Facility. She testified that during his stay he was put on medication for hallucinations and depression.

Griggers asked Hill-Gordon about the testimony of Dr. James Hooper, who also works for Hardin. Hooper tested Hodges and found nothing wrong with him. Hooper also said that it was hard to determine if he was truthful while taking the tests.

Judge Eddie Hardaway was asked by the defense team to seal Hodges’ medical records after the trial was over. He agreed with their request.

After Hill-Gordon finished, Hodges was called to the stand in a surprise move that shocked the crowd in the courtroom. Hodges said that he was living with his oldest sister in Meridian, Miss., before having to come home.

He said he had to leave Mississippi in a hurry because his sister was having family trouble, so he came to Alabama to live with his father in Nickelsville. He said that Kendrick Thomas gave him a gun and he walked over to Phillips’ house to confront him about what he said about his mother.

He said that Phillips cussed him out and that is when he raised the weapon and shot Phillips three times.

“He cussed me out and I started shooting until I couldn’t shoot anymore,” Hodges said.

The defense attacked the official statement taken from their client by ABI Agent Johnny Tubbs. Hodges said that Tubbs lied about what was written in the statement and that he used some of his own words.

“He lied about me being mad at Phillips. Everything else in that statement besides me shooting Phillips is a lie,” Hodges said.

Forte asked Hodges had he ever used words like enroute or exited in his vocabulary before. Hodges said no and that Tubbs was lying about everything.

He also said that his sister Tracey Hodges lied while on the stand during the first day of the trial.

“Yeah, Johnny Tubbs and my sister Tracey Hodges lied to the court. She said the police forced her to say what she said the other day,” Hodges said.

The defense then asked Hodges about his educational background. Hodges said that he was expelled from Sweet Water High School for fighting while in the ninth grade.

Hodges was asked if he had a drinking problem and he said yes. He also said that he had been drinking the day of the murder. Griggers wanted to know how drunk Hodges really was to be able to shoot someone twice in the chest.

“You killed Edward, shot him twice in the center of his chest. You weren’t too drunk to center him twice, were you?” Griggers asked.

After the final statements made by Hodges, the defense rested its case at 10:45 a.m.

Griggers then recalled Tubbs to the stand. Griggers asked Tubbs if he had lied while under oath to this jury and the court. Tubbs responded to the question with a very stern “no.” Following the testimony from Tubbs, the state rested its case at 11:05 am.

During the closing arguments, Griggers told the jury that he believed that only one verdict would be possible. He also said that he didn’t think any of them had doubts about who killed and robbed Phillips.

“Guilty of capital murder for the death of Edward Phillips is the only verdict possible,” Griggers said.

Forte closed on behalf of Hodges. He said Thomas was the mastermind behind the whole incident and he got a deal from the state to serve 30 years while his client, if convicted, faced life in prison.

Both sides officially closed and waited for a verdict at 1:55 pm.