Tyler Edmonds Acquitted
November 1, 2008
Tyler Edmonds is the 19-year-old Mississippi man who
was tried and convicted of conspiring with his sister to murder his half-sister's
husband. He was 13 at the time. In January 2007, his conviction was
thrown out by the Mississippi Supreme Court (which, I might add, cited
some of my reporting for reason in a concurring opinion).
In ordering a new trial, the court struck the testimony of now-former
Mississippi medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne.
Hayne improbably testified that the bullet wounds in
the victim's body suggested there were two hands on the gun that fired
that bullet, consistent with District Attorney Forrest Allgood's theory
that Edmonds and his sister fired the gun simultaneously. It was the
first time the state's supreme court had ever thrown out Hayne's
testimony in a criminal case.
Edmonds was retried last week in Starkville,
Mississippi. While Hayne was again allowed to testify, this time, he
wasn't permitted to give his two-hands-on-the-gun theory.
This afternoon, the jury acquitted Edmonds on all
could start deliberations by mid-afternoon
R. Brumfield - Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Both sides completed their cases before noon today in the
second murder trial of 19-year-old Tyler Edmonds.
discussions between attorneys and Judge Lee Howard about jury
instructions, it seems possible one may offer the option of a
manslaughter conviction, which could carry less than the mandatory life
sentence for murder.
lunch break, the jury is expected to hear closing arguments, legal
instructions from Howard and then begin deliberations about whether the
then 13-year-old helped his half-siter, Kristi Fulgham, killer her
sleeping husband, Joey, during Mother’s Day weekend of 2003.
proceedings began Monday with the a jury selection of eight women and
the trial is being conducted in Oktibbeha County, where the crime
occurred, the jury was selected in Attala County, where court officials
said they believed fewer people had heard about the case’s other two
trials and fewer people might be directed connected to the principals.
took the stand in his own defense about 8 a.m. He insisted he lied in an
initial statement to sheriff’s investigators, telling them he had helped
Kristi fire an old family .22 caliber rifle at the back of Joey’s head.
video of a second statement played for the packed courtroom, Edmonds
told Sheriff Dolph Bryan and others he gave Kristi the gun because she
had asked for one to kill a dog. When she tried to fire it behind their
house on Friday of that weekend, Edmonds said she told him it didn’t
he was awakened between 3:30 and 4 a.m. Saturday to get ready for a trip
to the Jackson, where Kristi planned to visit a boyfriend.
sat in the car waiting for her to leave the house, “I heard this pop,”
he said. “I didn’t think anything else about it - I didn’t know what it
recounted the details of their trip to Jackson and then to Biloxi until
Sunday afternoon. It didn’t vary from a previous account.
his story changed for late Sunday, when he said Kristi told him Joey was
dead when they were just minutes away from her mother’s house near
mother’s bedroom, Kristi told him “she did it,” he said, and she “needed
me to help her.”
there, Edmonds testified, Kristi concocted a story about how Joey’s
shooting had been an accident.
messed up my motions big-time,” he said.
defense team – Jim Waide and Victor Fleitas of Tupelo, and Barry Snyder
of North Miami, Fla. – have tried to convince the jury their client was
so thoroughly manipulated by Kristi that he lied about helping her kill
witnesses throughout the week have testified, sometimes emphatically,
that Edmonds is not a violent person. Numerous others have testified to
Kristi’s wiles at getting other people to do what she wanted, especially
Edmonds’ second trial on this charge. His first in 2004, which ended in
a conviction and a life sentence, was thrown out in 2007 by the
Mississippi Supreme Court, which cited multiple judicial errors by
Circuit Judge James Kitchens Jr.
Lee Howard is presiding over this trial. Assistant District Attorney
Frank Clark is the prosecutor.
2006, Kristi Fulgham was convicted of killing her husband and was
sentenced to death.
Kristi Fulgham takes stand, remains silent
By Kelly Daniels -
Starkville Daily News
31 October 2008
Convicted murderer Kristi Fulgham had nothing to say Thursday when
called as a witness for her 19-year-old half-brother’s murder trial in
her husband’s 2003 shooting death.
defense attorneys sent for Kristi, who is on death row, to testify on
red jumpsuit and bound wrists revealed the reality of her situation, she
did not wish to incriminate herself amid hopes of a successful appeal.
blank expression, Kristi said that she would answer no questions.
now in the women’s maximum security unit awaiting execution,” said Judge
Lee Howard after Edmonds attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, explained why he
wanted her to speak to the Attala County jury empaneled to hear Edmonds’
Howard continued, when a witness is going through the appeal process,
such as Kristi is doing, she has the right to keep her mouth closed.
whose courtroom appearance lasted a minute and a half, had just left the
convicted of capital murder in her husband Joey Fulgham’s killing and
sentenced to death in 2006.
19, half Kristi’s age, is being tried a second time for the 2003 murder
of Joey Fulgham; his first conviction in 2004 was overturned by the
Mississippi Supreme Court.
was 13 years old when initially arrested soon after Fulgham’s body was
found in his Longview home on Buckner Street.
Edmonds’ parents take the stand
defense went ahead with its strategy to point to Kristi as the real
murderer, not Edmonds, when his father, Danny, was called onto the
Kristi’s father, Danny was accused by her when she was very young of
molestation, a charge which he professed Thursday to have never denied.
asked me for a gun,” said Danny referring a conversation he had with
Kristi before the murder. “She wanted to kill Joey.”
According to his testimony, Kristi informed him that Joey had a life
insurance policy and that she was one of its beneficiaries.
going to buy me a new Cadillac,” he said.
Separated from Danny when he was 3, Tyler was not allowed to see his
got older, however, Kristi took him to see his father in secret,
although his mother said that he was allowed to see Danny as long as she
said he did not report Kristi’s statements to the police prior to the
murder because he never knew when she was telling the truth.
didn’t believe her,” he said, during the cross examination. “Because she
always lied ... She’d lie to get what she wanted.”
reported trying to reason with her.
‘If he’s mean to you, just leave him,’” he continued.
was not allowed to answer Waide’s incomplete question, “Whose fault was
it that Joey Fulgham?”
Edmonds was also not allowed to confirm how many times he visited his
son in jail.
ordered the jury to disregard that question.
mother, Sharon Clay, also took the stand to testify to Danny’s innocence
an integral part of the confession scene that has been much talked about
throughout the saga of Edmonds and Kristi.
he was there to help his sister,” she said, referring to Edmonds’
presence at the Oktibbeha County Sheriff Department to give a statement.
“I said no he wasn’t.”
who described herself as being “physically sick” that day, did not
believe her son when he confessed that he “did it.”
Insisting he was not a violent person, Clay said he was not a liar
unless he was under pressure.
he was lying,” she said. “It horrified me.”
asked about his cooperation with authority, she said, “He’s never ever
had any discipline problem— nothing.”
other character witnesses also testified on Edmonds’ behalf during
Thursday’s trial proceedings.
forensic pathologist for the defense, Dr. James Lauridson, made
statements that contradicted Edmonds’ confession.
his statements about the time and cause of death were in line with Dr.
Steven Hayne, who testified for the state, Lauridson’s argument mainly
concerned Joey’s head wound.
2003 videotaped confession, Edmonds said that he saw blood “sprinkle”
down the pillow upon which Joey lay after being shot with a .22-caliber
Lauridson said that a distant gunshot wound from a 22 caliber would
leave only a small amount of blood around the rim of the wound.
not allowed to say whether or not this finding contradicted Edmonds’
Edmonds’ first trial, Hayne’s analysis included the much publicized
statement that it was “less likely” one person held the gun than if two
people held the gun.
this observation based analysis of Joey’s wound.
Mississippi Supreme Court overturned Edmonds’ guilty verdict in 2007,
stating in a written order that Hayne’s testimony should not have been
allowed as evidence.
who Assistant District Attorney Frank Clark argued was the examiner of
Joey’s body while Lauridson only reviewed Hayne’s report, has been
removed from the list of approved medical examiners from which county
prosecutors are encouraged to use.
Edmonds could ask U.S. Supreme Court to
toss confession; victim's family objects
By Chris Talbott - Associated
The Sun Herald
Sun, May. 27, 2007
JACKSON, Miss. -- When Tyler Edmonds sits
down with his defense attorney in the coming weeks to prepare for a new
trial in the killing of his brother-in-law, he will have many decisions
None will be easy, but the
most difficult choice likely will be whether to accept a possible plea
deal or take his chances in court. Edmonds, now 17, has already served
three years in prison and faces decades more if convicted again in the
2003 killing of Joey Fulgham.
"There will be enormous
pressure on Tyler to engage in some type of plea bargain so as to avoid
that life sentence, that mandatory life sentence," said Edmonds'
attorney, Jim Waide.
The Mississippi Supreme Court
recently ordered a new trial for Edmonds after ruling the first one
The court did not throw out
the teenager's contested confession, "which is really the only evidence,"
Waide said. He said he will urge his client to appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court to get the confession thrown out.
"The crucial issue in the
case probably still has not been resolved - whether that confession is
admissible," Waide said.
The confession came after the
Oktibbeha County sheriff barred Edmonds' mother, Sharon Clay, from the
room while her son was questioned, the court record said. The sheriff
also brought Kristi Fulgham, Joey Fulgham's wife and Edmonds' alleged
coconspirator, into the room to help coerce the then-13-year-old into
admitting he was a willing participant in the murder.
Kristi Fulgham was convicted
of capital murder in December and is awaiting execution, though her
conviction will be automatically appealed.
Edmonds was freed last week
on $75,000 bond.
Joey Fulgham's family said
they are heartbroken that the Mississippi high court overturned Edmonds'
"We're living it all over
again," said Shannon Fulgham, Joey Fulgham's brother. "Of course I'll
have to re-testify to finding my brother dead in bed.
"We don't want to relive this
year after year after year."
They also believe that
Edmonds' confession, recorded on videotape, proves his guilt. They say
he offers details that only the killer could know and that the attempt
to throw out the confession will only lengthen their pain and suffering.
"You put your faith in the
justice system and then it's all blown away," said Kim Fulgham, Shannon
Fulgham's wife and Joey Fulgham's sister-in-law.
While the Mississippi high
court's 4-3 decision to grant Edmonds a new trial did not address the
confession other than to note that it is disputed, Justice Oliver Diaz
wrote separately in the ruling that Circuit Judge James Kitchens Jr.
erred when he allowed the confession.
Diaz said the sheriff acted
improperly and violated the state's Youth Court Act when he barred
Edmonds' mother from the room before a three-hour interrogation that
resulted in the boy's confession.
Diaz writes: "On the
videotape, just as he finishes confessing, one can see Tyler's mother
force herself into the interrogation room to find that her son has
confessed to the murder. In a heart-wrenching scene, Tyler tells his
mother that he and Kristi 'did it,' all while sobbing, head in hands,
unable to stand."
Waide said the U.S. Supreme
Court rarely intervenes in such issues. He said he has handled four
cases where the nation's high court has stepped in to decide
"This case has far stronger
grounds for the court accepting than any of those other four I've had
accepted," Waide said. "So I do think there's a substantial chance they
would hear it."
Diaz said along with
accepting the confession, Kitchens also erred when he did not allow an
expert witness on false confessions to testify for the defense. When
coupled with the mistake of allowing an expert witness to testify for
the prosecution on a speculative two-shooter theory, Diaz said Edmonds'
was doubly wronged.
"Unfortunately, this case
provides a disheartening example of the double standard applied to
expert testimony in criminal cases," Diaz wrote.
Kitchens has removed himself
from the Edmonds case, turning it over to Circuit Judge Lee Howard.
The decision to appeal to the
U.S. Supreme Court will be Edmonds' to make. Waide said Edmonds has been
an active participant in his defense since he was 13, making most of the
major decisions with advice from several people.
He worries about the
ramifications of a teenager making such important, life-altering
"It is putting
me in a very interesting dilemma," Waide said. "I do not believe at age
13 that Tyler (was) capable of making decisions like that, didn't have
the capacity to. But at the same time there's no clear state law that
says he doesn't make those decisions. So it's been a really interesting
Edmonds' conviction overturned
Bounds - Starkville Daily News
Starkville, Mississippi - Thursday, January 4, 2007
Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday overturned Tyler Edmonds’ murder
conviction and ordered a new trial for the teenager in the 2003 shooting
death of his half-sister’s husband.
The Supreme Court granted
Edmonds’ petition for a writ of certiorari and have found he was denied
a constitutionally fair trial, reversed the judgments of the Court of
Appeals and the Circuit Court of Oktibbeha County and is remanding his
case to the circuit court for a new trial.
Edmonds appealed his
conviction and sentence twice, and the Supreme Court assigned the appeal
to the Court of Appeals.
Local prosecutors, however,
said the Supreme Court’s opinion is unofficial until the court hands
down a formal order. “In a 69-page opinion, the Supreme Court has
ordered a new trial for Tyler Edmonds,” Assistant District Attorney
Frank Clark said. “As of now, it is just an opinion, and has not been
accompanied by a mandate. The Court of Appeals said over a year ago that
there was no reversible or harmful error in Tyler’s trial. Apparently
the Supreme Court disagreed.”
Clark would not comment
further on the Supreme Court’s decision, but did address his office’s
sympathies for the family of the victim, Joey T. Fulgham.
“We’re just heartbroken for
this family,” Clark said. “It’s been three and a half going on four
years, and they just need to have some closure on all of this. They
haven’t done anything other than love their family member and be
completely supportive and quiet throughout all of this.”
Clark’s fellow prosecutor,
Assistant District Attorney Patricia Faver, echoed his sentiments.
“There still has to be an
official mandate from the Supreme Court, this is just an unofficial
opinion,” Faver said. “Until there is an official mandate by the Supreme
Court, which may be next week, two weeks or however long they decide
it’s going to take them to do that, it’s not completely official yet.”
Faver said the Attorney
General’s Office handles all of the district attorney’s appeals, not the
district attorney’s office.
“What we are requesting that
they do is file a motion for rehearing, just like they did with the
Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals had affirmed the decision, and
then the defense went and asked for a new hearing. They revisited it and
affirmed it again. That was a year and a half ago. The bottom line is,
if this is what they want, if this is their official opinion, then we
will try the case again.
“We are so sorry for the (Fulgham)
family, Frank and I are,” Faver said. “They have been through two trials,
two separate trials in two different counties. Twelve people from two
different counties have found them both (Edmonds and his half-sister,
Kristi Fulgham) guilty, and the Court of Appeals has affirmed it twice,
saying not only that there wasn’t any error at all — it was a perfect
Andrea White, a close friend
of Tyler’s and a juvenile justice advocate from Summit, Ark., spoke
candidly Thursday about the Supreme Court’s opinion.
“Tyler’s mother called me to
tell me the news shortly before 2 p.m.,” White said. “I hit the floor
crying. You have no idea how hard we’ve all worked, and this is such
retribution for all of us, and for Tyler especially. The highest court
in the entire state just proved that what (Circuit Court Judge) Jim
Kitchens did to a 13-year-old child was completely unconstitutional.
“It’s one thing to do
something unconstitutional to anybody, but to do it to a 13-year-old
child is another. God knows when things are going wrong and when people
start doing people wrong, and God will always be the one who fixes it.”
White said she believes this is the first step to Edmonds regaining his
freedom “This is just amazing,” White said. “A lot of people thought
that Tyler was going to spend the rest of his life in jail, but he’s not
now. There’s no way.”
In a previous statement,
White said this case troubled her more than anything in the world,
because she used to have a deep faith in America’s justice system. “I’ve
lost that and I won’t find it again until Tyler receives justice,” she
The state Court of Appeals
upheld Edmonds’ conviction last year in the May 10, 2003, shooting death
of Joey Fulgham while he slept in his Longview community home, just a
few miles west of Starkville.
Now 17 years old, Edmonds was
just 13 when he was arrested in 2003. He was convicted of murder in 2004
in Oktibbeha County.
Edmonds’ sister was convicted
of the greater charge of capital murder last month and received the
death penalty. She is the first woman ever convicted in Oktibbeha County
of capital murder and sentenced to death.
Thursday, the Supreme Court
said that Edmonds’ trial was tainted by unsupported testimony from
forensic pathologist, Dr. Stephen Hayne, that Edmonds and his half
sister pulled the trigger of the gun used to kill Joey Fulgham together.
The Supreme Court’s statement
said prosecutors had no evidence to support a two-shooter theory.
Presiding Justice Bill Waller
Jr., writing the major opinion, said Kitchens should not have allowed
Hayne’s testimony about a two-shooter theory, practically ruling out a
single-shooter theory. Hayne’s testimony states that the positioning of
the weapon led him to believe that two people had pulled the trigger.
Waller said such testimony was beyond Hayne’s area of expertise.
“While Dr. Hayne is qualified
to proffer expert opinions in forensic pathology, a court should not
give such an expert carte blanche to proffer any opinion he chooses.
There was no showing that Dr. Hayne’s testimony was based, not on
opinions or speculation, but rather on scientific methods and procedures,”
Waller’s statement read.
Edmonds’ defense attorney,
Jim Waide of Tupelo, said Hayne’s testimony was a major issue at the
trial. “It’s always difficult to know what will influence the jury. I
think his (Hayne’s) testimony was absurd and I was astounded that it may
well have influenced how the trial came out,” Waide said. Waide said he
is relieved that Tyler will get a new trial. “We’re back now where we
started four years ago,” he said.
Waller said Kitchens, as the
trial judge, also erred by excluding the testimony of Danny Edmonds, the
father of Kristi Fulgham and Tyler, who told law enforcement officers
that Kristi Fulgham had asked him for a pistol because “she wanted Joey
dead” and that she would kill him in his sleep. Danny Edmonds also told
officers that Kristi told him that Joey had several hundred thousand
dollars in life insurance that would go to her if he were dead.
The trial judge ruled the
statements were inadmissible hearsay. Waller said the statements
indicated Kristi’s intention to murder her husband and corroborated
Tyler’s defense that Kristi was the person who shot Joey Fulgham.
“Moreover, Danny Edmonds’
statement is corroborated by other evidence: Kristi had previously
inquired about Joey’s life insurance with the National Guard, and Joey’s
body was found in his bed, consistent with someone who had been shot in
their sleep,” Waller said.
That same testimony was,
however, allowed in Kristi Fulgham’s prosecution by Circuit Judge Lee J.
Howard, and was considered to be some of the most damaging evidence
against her by the prosecuting attorneys. Waller said the only direct
evidence that Tyler was involved in Joey Fulgham’s murder was Kristi
Fulgham’s allegations that Tyler killed Joey Fulgham and Tyler’s
“Tyler had absolutely no
motive to kill Joey other than to please Kristi,” Waller said. “Tyler
had no expectation of financial gain from Joey’s death. Kristi, on the
other hand, had the means, the motive and the opportunity to kill Joey.”
Throughout Fulgham’s trial, the prosecution, Clark and Faver, who also
tried Edmonds’ case, referred to Edmonds as one of the victims in this
crime, and suggested that he was led astray by his older half-sister.
Miss. high court orders
new trial to Edmonds
Elliott Jr. - Associated Press
Thu, Jan. 04, 2007
- The Mississippi Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for Tyler
Edmonds, throwing out the teenager's murder conviction and life sentence
because he didn't get a fair trial.
Last year, the state Court of
Appeals upheld Edmonds conviction in the shooting death of Joey Fulgham
in 2003. Edmonds is 16 now. He was 13 when he was arrested in 2003 after
Fulgham was shot to death at Fulgham's home west of Starkville. He was
convicted in 2004 in Oktibbeha County.
On Thursday, the Supreme
Court said Edmonds' trial was tainted by unsupported testimony from a
forensic pathologist that Edmonds and his half sister, Kristi Fulgham,
together pulled the trigger of the gun used to kill Joey Fulgham. Kristi
Fulgham has been sentenced to death for the murder.
The Supreme Court said
prosecutors had no evidence to support a two-shooter theory.
Presiding Justice Bill Waller
Jr., writing for the Supreme Court, said the trial judge should not have
allowed Dr. Stephen Hayne to testify about a two-shooter theory almost
to the exclusion of a single shooter theory.
Hayne testified that the
positioning of the weapon led him to believe that two people had pulled
Waller said such testimony
was beyond Hayne's area of expertise.
"While Dr. Hayne is qualified
to proffer expert opinions in forensic pathology, a court should not
give such an expert carte blanche to proffer any opinion he chooses.
There was no showing that Dr. Hayne's testimony was based, not on
opinions or speculation, but rather on scientific methods and procedures,"
Defense attorney Jim Waide of
Tupelo said Hayne's testimony was a major issue at the trial.
"It's always difficult to
know what will influence the jury. I think his (Hayne's) testimony was
absurd and I was astounded that it may have well influenced how the
trial came out," Waide said.
Waide was he was relieved
that Tyler got a new trial.
"We're back now where we
started four years ago," he said.
Assistant District Attorney
Frank Clark, who helped prosecute the case, said Thursday that he had
not seen the decision and had no immediate comment.
Waller said the trial judge
also erred by excluding the testimony of Danny Edmonds, the father of
Kristi and Tyler, who told law enforcement officers that Kristi had
asked him for a pistol because "she wanted Joey dead" and that she would
kill him in his sleep.
Danny Edmonds also told
officers that Kristi told him that Joey had several hundred thousand
dollars in life insurance that would go to her if he were dead.
The trial judge ruled the
statements were inadmissible hearsay.
Waller said the statements
indicated Kristi's intention to murder her husband and corroborated
Tyler's defense that Kristi was the person who shot Joey.
"Moreover, Danny Edmonds'
statement is corroborated by other evidence: Kristi had previously
inquired about Joey's life insurance with the National Guard, and Joey's
body was found in his bed, consistent with someone who had been shot in
their sleep," Waller said.
Waller said the only direct
evidence that Tyler was involved in Joey's murder was Kristi's
allegations that Tyler killed Joey and Tyler's disputed confession.
"Tyler had absolutely no
motive to kill Joey other than to please Kristi," Waller said. "Tyler
had no expectation of financial gain from Joey's death. Kristi, on the
other hand, had the means, the motive and the opportunity to kill Joey."
In a dissenting opinion,
Justice Chuck Easley said Tyler, in his videotaped confession, said both
he and Kristi put their hand on the trigger and she squeezed his hand to
make the gun fire.
Easley said Hayne did not
testify that his autopsy findings supported two people pulling the
trigger. He said prosecutors asked Hayne if the results of his
investigation would support Tyler's version of the shooting.
"Dr. Hayne testified that he
favored the theory that someone helped position the weapon used to shoot
Fulgham. This testimony was corroborated by Edmonds' confession that
Kristi assisted him in shooting Fulgham," Easley wrote.
said Danny Edmonds' testimony was inadmissible because there was nothing
to collaborate it. He said Kristi's decision that she would not testify
meant Danny Edmonds' testimony was hearsay.
guilty in slaying
Tyler Edmonds sentenced to
life in prison after 6-hour deliberation
By Steven Griffin -
Mon Jul 26, 2004
STARKVILLE — Jurors on
Saturday found 15-year-old Tyler Edmonds, charged with capital murder in
a scheme to kill and rob his half-sister's ex-husband, guilty of the
lesser charge of murder.
Edmonds showed little emotion
as the verdict was read about 5:50 p.m., almost six hours after jurors
began their deliberations at Oktibbeha County Circuit Court.
Judge Jim Kitchens sentenced
Edmonds to life in prison.
Kitchens had allowed jurors
to consider lesser charges of murder and culpable negligent manslaughter
because it was unclear if Edmonds knew about the robbery or whether the
.22-caliber rifle that killed Joey Fulgham would actually fire. Edmonds
made a videotaped confession to police, but recanted it four days later.
"He's trying to be strong,"
lead defense attorney Jim Waide said as disappointed family and friends
filed out of the courtroom amid muffled sobs.
Waide said he plans to
Kristi Fulgham, 27, Edmonds'
half-sister, also is charged with capital murder. No trial date has been
set for Fulgham.
The case attracted national
attention because Edmonds was only 13 when he was charged and was tried
as an adult. Kitchens ruled earlier in the week that CourtTV, CBS' 48
Hours and other local television stations would not be allowed to
videotape trial proceedings.
Assistant District Attorney
Patricia Faver begged jurors during her closing arguments Saturday not
to make a decision based on Edmonds' age.
"If he was 6-foot-1, 200
pounds, would we be having this conversation? No," Faver said. "He looks
like he belongs in a principal's office, not in prison."
Joey Fulgham was found in the
bedroom of his home in the Longview community in Oktibbeha County on May
11, 2003. He had been shot once in the head.
Edmonds testified Thursday
that his half-sister killed her ex-husband alone and told him to take
the blame for her because she told him authorities would not prosecute a
But in his videotaped
confession, Edmonds said they both pulled the trigger.
Defense attorney Rob McDuff
argued the only thing the prosecution had to go on was a "confession
that makes no sense."
McDuff argued that there was
no physical evidence linking Edmonds to the crime scene or to
corroborate his confession.
The prosecution pointed to
the videotaped confession Edmonds made to deputies May 12, when he said,
"I looked away and we squeezed."
They said most of Edmonds'
confession was consistent with expert witness testimony during the case,
including where he said he saw blood after firing the shot and when the
Waide recalled transcripts of
the confession tape for the jury and showed where some of Edmonds'
statements contradicted each other, such as details about how he and his
sister were holding the gun.
Waide said the court should
have allowed an expert to testify about false confessions.
But Assistant District
Attorney Frank Clark said people who visited the youth at the jail
prompted him to change his story.
realized the trouble he was in ... that's when this whole other story
came up," Clark said.
Edmonds convicted after 6
hours of jury deliberation, sentenced to life
By Conswella Bennett/Starkville
Mon Jul 26, 2004
Emotions ran high late
Saturday afternoon in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court after a jury
convicted West Point teenager Tyler Edmonds, of murder in the shooting
death of his half-sister's husband last year.
Friends and family milled
around the Oktibbeha County Courthouse awaiting the verdict Saturday
after the jury began deliberating around noon after Edmonds' week-long
trial on a capital murder indictment.
After almost a six-hour
deliberation, the jury found Edmonds, 15, guilty of murder. The decision
was a unanimous vote by the jury as required by law, and the jurors were
polled individually to verify the verdict.
Edmonds' was sentenced
minutes later to life in prison with the possibility of parole at the
age of 65, and he must petition the circuit court judge and not a parole
board for release at that time.
The jury had four possible
choices to choose from: Guilty of capital murder, not guilty of capital
murder, murder, or manslaughter.
After the verdict was read,
Edmonds showed no emotion. Edmonds' mother, Sharon Clay, burst into
tears, as did several of Edmonds' friends and relatives. Clay eventually
ran from the courtroom to the nearby law library, where she could be
heard crying from the hallway.
Joey Fulgham's family members
also began crying when the verdict was read. Joey's mother, Ann Cash,
covered her eyes and wept, clinging to her younger son, Shannon Fulgham.
Circuit Court Judge Jim
Kitchens presided over the trial and before reading the sentence,
Kitchens gave both the Fulgham family and Edmonds an opportunity to
speak. Both refused.
Kitchens requested Edmonds
and his defense team to stand before him as he read the sentence. After
reading the sentence, Kitchens spoke directly to Edmonds: "I understand
you love your sister, and you maintained your innocence. I think she (Kristi
Fulgham) led you into something you didn't want to do, now you've got to
live with it."
Nodding his head to Kitchens
before being led away by sheriff's deputies, Edmonds looked at his
mother, who sat crying comforted by family members.
Jim Waide, Edmonds' lead
attorney, said he plans to file routine motions next week to begin
appealing Edmonds' conviction
"Tyler is determined to be
strong. He knows he didn't commit this crime, and he's determined to get
that proven," Waide said. "I believe we have a world of grounds for an
An emotionally drained Waide
said he believed that not being allowed to include an expert opinion on
false confessions to be included and the admittance of the confession
without his mother's presence were crucial points to his case.
Clay, finally able to gain
her composure after learning of her son's fate, said she and her family
are determined to continue to fight for her son's life.
"We are just going to keep
fighting because my son is innocent," Clay said.
Clay said she was not
surprised when her son opted not to speak to the court.
"Sometimes less is better and
right now less is better," she said.
Now, Clay said she will
continue to turn to prayer to help keep her and her son strong.
"I'm not going to give up on
him. I love him," she said.
All week long, Clay and the
family of Joey Fulgham have both received an outpouring of support from
friends, relatives and citizens from surrounding communities. Clay said
for her the support of her friends, family and others had been wonderful.
"There would have been more
but there was not enough seating capacity," Clay said.
Members of a Florida-based
advocacy group, Under Our Wings, had been present to show their support
for Clay and Edmonds. The organization said they are concerned with the
unconstitutional, spiritual and inhumane issues involved in charging and
trying youth as adults.
"We're not going to give up.
We're not going to give up," Clay assured. "It's not fair. He is a child,
and we will continue to fight until he is vindicated."
Edmonds' father, Danny
Edmonds, refused to comment. Members of the Fulgham family also refused
Stephanie Mallette, one of
Kristi Fulgham's attorneys, said after the Edmonds trial that she will
start pretrial motions. The next phase will be to determine a trial
Mallette, who had been
present throughout the Edmonds' trial said, "It's certainly unusual --
rarely do you get to see the state's case before you go to trial."
Mallette said it would probably be next spring before Kristi Fulgham's
trial could take place.
Assistant District Attorney
Patricia Faver, the lead prosecutor on the case, would not comment on
the verdict, citing state ethics rules that applied because she is still
charged with prosecuting Kristi Fulgham.
Closing arguments: The
The final day of the trial
began at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with closing arguments.Assistant District
Attorney Frank Clark began with the prosecution's closing arguments and
spoke of bringing the "nightmare" to an end.
The nightmare began May 10,
2003, when Joey Fulgham was shot in his home at 2163 Buckner St., in the
Longview Community. Fulgham was found in his home on May 11, 2003 by his
younger brother, Shannon.
"Shannon saw a glimpse of
that nightmare, and it's a nightmare that will never end," Clark said. "It's
a nightmare for Joey Fulgham's family and for those who loved him and
that's why we're here -- what he's done and a human life's been taken.
We're here because it matters."
Those who commit crimes must
be held accountable, Clark said in closing arguments.
Recounting the events that
led up to the nightmare and the different accounts of Edmonds'
statements regarding his involvement in the shooting, Clark told the
jurors that the case was about Edmonds bringing the .22 rifle to Kristi
Clark recounting earlier
testimony by Edmonds, said Kristi Fulgham, who is also charged with
capital murder in the shooting said, "she stood behind me, put her hand
on the trigger with me, and I looked away, and we squeezed. That's what
this case is about, "we squeezed."
But, the final building block,
Clark said was capital murder, "it's the easiest to find. It's the one
we've proven. This instruction (capital murder) is your road map, it
shows the things the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,"
"We're here today not because
who the defendant is, but what he did. It doesn't matter the defendant
is 13, 33 or 103 years old. He (Edmonds) still has to be held
accountable. He knew the difference between right and wrong," Clark said.
Closing arguments: The
Robert McDuff, Jackson
attorney assisting Waide gave the beginning closing arguments for the
"We don't even believe the
facts that Tyler (Edmonds) should even be here," McDuff said. McDuff
said that he and Robert Smith, another Jackson-based attorney assisting
Waide, were honored to be here representing Edmonds.
"He was 13 years old when he
was locked up. He turned 14 locked in the Oktibbeha County jail and
turned 15 locked in the jail," McDuff said. "He's spent all this time
locked in jail because he loved and trusted his sister -- an evil and
manipulative woman," McDuff said.
McDuff told the jury that
there was no physical evidence linking Edmonds to the crime. McDuff said
that Kristi Fulgham got Edmonds involved in the "adult cesspool of her
"You're sitting in judgment
of a 13-year-old child who's now 15. I think the evidence is clear, he
didn't do this - If you have any doubt, he's to be found not guilty,"
McDuff urged the jury not to
think that manslaughter was an acceptable compromise in the case, "he's
not guilty of anything."
"Tyler has paid the price for
the last 15 months. He needs to go home and the only way that will
happen is if he is acquitted of all charges," McDuff said. "He hasn't
been proven guilty and certainly not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Kristi ruined the last 15 months of his life, don't let them ruin any
more of his life."
In the final portion of the
defense closing statement, Waide stood before the jury.
Waide's emotions overcame him
early as he spoke about Edmonds plot to see his father.
"Tyler knew how important it
was to have a relationship with his dad. He got it through his sister,
Kristi," Waide said.
Waide reminded the jury that
when Kristi did not show up to pick him up Thursday as had been planned
to take him to his fathers, he began calling his father that Friday
morning. "He called six times, 'I want my daddy! Come get me' does that
sound like to you that they were planning a murder, he wants his daddy
but nobody comes," Waide said.
Waide gave in to his emotions
at various parts of his closing arguments. Waide said he turned to his
friends, Smith and McDuff, to assist him with the case because, "I get
so angry thinking about this case, I can't control myself, and I needed
After hearing four days of
testimony, Waide told the jury, "I believe you'll apply your good common
sense. I don't know where you go to church, the blacks probably go to a
black church, the whites to a white church and if you're fortunate like
me you go to a church with both blacks and whites.
"At the end of the service,
the pastor says, 'Choose the path you'll go.' When Tyler gave his third
confession (videotaped on to Sheriff Dolph Bryan) he twisted a rubber
band on his wrist, now he's wearing a different bracelet "WWJD."
Closing arguments: The
With the toll of the case
weighing on everyone, Faver gave an emotional closing argument. Faver
restated the last words of Waide's closing remarks: "Choose the path
that you want to go."
"Tyler Edmonds chose that
path May 10, 2003," Faver said.Faver told the jury that Edmonds chose
"He knew right from wrong. He
was 14 in less than a month with an IQ of 119. He was in the gifted
program. He had choices. He knew right from wrong," Faver emphasized.
"For them to come in here and
portray him as a good innocent kid, I want to say will the real Tyler
Edmonds please stand up," Faver said, visibly emotional and pointing in
Fighting back tears, Faver
spoke of Joey Fulgham's children and their cries of, "I want my daddy."
"Yes, I'm angry now. I'm
emotional. I've been called everything from 'Ice Queen' and the 'Heartless
Prosecutor,' but what he (Edmonds) did is wrong," Faver said.
Faver fought back the tears,
and members of the Fulgham family cried, as she spoke of Joey's children
not having their father around for T-Ball games or ballet.
"What you have to decide is
if you'll follow your oath," Faver said.Faver reminded the jury that
when she showed Edmonds a photograph of the wound in Joey Fulgham's head,
"he showed no emotions, no sympathy, no sorrow -- will the real Tyler
Edmonds please stand up?"Faver encouraged the jury to look beyond
Edmonds' boyish "Harry Potter" looks.
"If he was 6'1" and 200
pounds, would all these people have come? No, but because he looks like
Harry Potter, all these people are here," she said.
"This is not easy. This is
not easy for me, but I took an oath to uphold the constitution and the
laws of the state," Faver said.
"As hard as it may be for me
at times, I follow that oath. All I'm asking you to do is to follow
yours."Passionately, Faver asked the jury to judge the verdict on the
your verdict on the evidence. Follow your oath," Faver said.
Tyler Wayne Edmonds was a 13 year-old honor student at his West
Point, MS, middle school in May, 2003. He had no history of violence,
gang affiliation or proclivity to anti-social behavior. Tyler attended
his local church regularly and respected adult authority. Anyone who
has ever met Tyler would say he is a sweet, loving kid who likes to help
and please others.
Even so, he was arrested and charged with the murder of Joey Fulgham
from the Longview Community in Starkville, MS on May 12, 2003. The
arrest was based on a false confession Tyler gave to the Oktibbeha
County Sheriff’s Office. There was no physical evidence showing that
Tyler participated in the crime.
The murder occurred during the early morning of Saturday, May 10.
Kristi Fulgham, Tyler’s half-sister and Joey’s ex-wife, admitted to
Tyler she killed Joey on Sunday, May 11. Kristi was 27 years old at the
time of the murder. She told him that the authorities would “kill me” (give
her the death penalty) and she would never see Tyler and her three young
children again. Kristi also told Tyler the nothing would happen to him
if he confessed to the crime because he was a minor. He loved and
trusted her enough to confess to a murder he did not commit
Tyler had a very close relationship with Kristi
who had an incredible amount of influence over him. Both share the
same biological Father, Danny Edmonds. Danny and Tyler’s Mom,
Sharon Clay, were divorced in 1993 when Tyler was about 4 years old.
For various reasons, Tyler was not allowed to see Danny after the
divorce. As Tyler grew up, he longed to know his Dad. Kristi
arranged for Tyler to have weekend visits with Danny, unbeknownst to
Sharon, between the ages of 12-13. Kristi’s leveraged Tyler’s
covert relationship with Danny as a way to gain further control his
mind and heart. Consistently, she would ask Tyler to lie to Joey
and various other boyfriends to cover her tracks during affairs.
Kristi also used Tyler to take care of her kids and clean her home (wherever
she was living at the time).
At one point, Kristi convinced Tyler she would be a
better parent/guardian for him than Sharon. She took him to the
Department of Human Services to obtain custody even though there was no
evidence of abuse or neglect by Sharon or Tyler’s stepfather. One could
possibly interpret her relationship with Tyler as a grooming process for
another end. The Fulgham marriage had a long history of marital tumult
and domestic violence, which escalated when she disclosed her third
child was fathered by Joey’s best friend. In fact, the Fulghams
discussed this topic during an appearance on the “Montel Williams Show”
in 2000. Also, Kristi mistakenly thought she was the beneficiary of
Joey’s $300,000 life insurance policy. Any motivation to harm Joey
belonged to Kristi Fulgham.
During the 2003 Mother’s Day weekend, Tyler was
supposed to spend the weekend with Danny through Kristi as he had done
before. At that time, Kristi was divorced from Joey. She had been
living with Joey since March, 2003 having lived in Jackson, MS with a
boyfriend named Kyle Harvey. Kristi and her three children had moved
back with Joey until she could get her own place. Joey did not know
about Kyle and vice-versa. Kristi would have Tyler lie for her to cover
her tracks with both. In the weeks preceding that Mother’s Day weekend,
she asked Tyler various times to bring over an old .22 caliber rifle.
Kristi said there was a stray dog running around and she wanted to kill
it. Tyler was very reluctant to bring this old gun because he didn’t
like the thought of killing the dog. Tyler’s disposition is non-violent
to the point where he and a classmate was known to feed stray cats after
Also, during Kristi Fulgham’s 2006 trial, Danny
Edmonds testified that Kristi had asked him a week before Joey’s death
to provide a gun to kill him. She also promised Danny part of the life
insurance proceeds if he complied. Kristi kept pressing Tyler over and
over to bring the gun and he finally gave in and brought it that weekend.
Although Tyler brought the gun, he was very confident it could not be
used due to the gun being in such poor condition. When Tyler was 12, he
was spending a lot of time with his brother Ryan and his cousin Randy.
During this time, the boys had been attempting to repair the gun so they
could use it for hunting.
In Tyler’s 2004 trial and Kristi’s 2006 trial, Randy
testified that Tyler tried to pull back the plunger of the old .22 and
was not strong enough to do it. Ryan had to pull it back for him.
Randy testified in both trials that the plunger was difficult for anyone
to pull back.
Randy testified in Tyler’s trial that “He (Tyler)
pulled the trigger and acted real scared and then handed the gun.. the
.22 back over to his brother and said he wasn’t going to shoot the
weapon . . he wasn’t going to shoot the gun in the house”. Furthermore,
Randy testified that the .22 did not go off when Tyler pulled the
trigger. Finally, during Tyler’s trial, Randy testified “I believe that
Tyler would not hurt anybody. Tyler is a very non-violent person”.
During Kristi Fulgham’s 2006 trial, Randy also
testified that Tyler did not like to hunt animals because “animals were
too pretty to kill”. Randy’s testimony clearly showed that while he was
pressured into bringing the .22 to shoot the stray dog, Tyler believed
it was a non-functioning weapon. Tyler wanted to mollify Kristi and not
aid in the killing of a stray dog. Randy’s testimony also clearly
indicates that Tyler is a non-violent child
Tyler did not have school on Friday, May 9 and Kristi promised to
pick him up after school on Thursday. She didn’t show up but later
promised to pick him up on Friday morning. Kristi was a no-show again
on that Friday because she was in Jackson with Kyle. So, Tyler spent
the better part of Friday calling his Dad’s secretary, hoping his Dad
would come get him. Danny would not comply because he didn’t want to
cause a “big deal” with Sharon.
Kristi finally picked him up on Friday afternoon around 4:00 p.m.
They went to Joey’s house where Kristi tried shooting the .22 in the
backyard. The gun would not fire. Joey came home around 5:00 p.m. Two
of the Fulgham children were picked up by Joey’s ex-Father-in-law around
this time. He lived nearby and the kids often stayed the night with him.
Joey, Kristi, Tyler, and the other child hung out for awhile and then
went out to get some Subway sandwiches. They ate, and Joey went to bed
while Kristi spent the evening on the computer. Tyler laid by Kristi’s
feet during this time.
Later in the evening, she instructed him to sleep in one of the
kid’s beds. Tyler went to sleep and awoke the next morning around 4:00
a.m. to an alarm Kristi had set. She told him to gather her child, get
in the car, and they would go. She also told him to put the home
computer, excluding the monitor and keyboard, in the trunk.
Although Tyler did not physically see the .22 in the pre-dawn
darkness, he thought the .22 rifle was in the front area of the car
trunk, since Kristi had put it there after the gun failed to fire on the
previous day. Tyler also thought they were going to his Dad’s house in
Columbus, MS. Tyler put the child in the car, started the engine,
played with the radio, and waited.
During that time, he heard a “pop” sound coming from the house. He
thought nothing of it since Kristi had a cat that tended to knock things
over around the house. She came out, closed the trunk, and got in the
car. Kristi gave Tyler a wallet to put in the glove box. He did as he
was told thinking it was Kyle’s. They picked up the other two kids and
took a route that was not the usual way to Danny Edmonds’ house. Tyler
asked Kristi what was going on and she said their plans had changed.
They were picking up Kyle in Jackson and going to Gulfport/Biloxi for
the weekend. Kristi said Danny was ok with it. Tyler really had no
other choice and went along.
They picked up Kyle in Jackson and headed to Biloxi where they
checked in at the Beau Rivage. Kristi paid for it all. She could
afford lodging at a luxury hotel because she had taken over $1,000.00
cash in Joey’s wallet from his recently cashed paycheck. This was the
wallet she gave Tyler in the car. Tyler had no idea who paid for what
because Kyle took care of the check-in transaction at the Beau Rivage.
They spent Saturday at the beach and riding Sea-Doos around the
hotel’s waterfront. The group left on Sunday between Noon-1:30 p.m.
After Kyle was dropped off in Jackson, he received a phone call from
Kristi’s former best friend, Sonja. She told him that Joey has been
found dead and not to tell Kristi, as she was driving en route to
Starkville. Regardless, Kyle called Kristi and informed her. Kristi
then received a call from her Mom who asked her to come to her house in
Meridian instead of going to Starkville. Kristi did not tell Tyler
about Joey’s death until a few minutes before arrival in Meridian. He
spent some time outside Kristi’s parents’ house playing with the kids
while Kristi and her parents talked inside.
After awhile, Tyler went inside and found Kristi crying in a bedroom.
He consoled her, and also cried when Kristi admitted she killed Joey.
She told him that the authorities would “kill me”, take her children
away, and he would never see her again. Kristi then told him that her
only way out was for him to confess to the authorities that he killed
Joey, telling the boy nothing would happen to him since he was a minor.
Tyler looked at Kristi like she was “crazy” but trusted and loved her
enough to comply. Her first instruction was for Tyler to deny anything
happened at all and they knew nothing about Joey’s murder. If that
didn’t work, she would give him a “signal” and he would admit to killing
Joey, but say it was an accident. They spent the night in Meridian.
On Monday, Tyler traveled to West Point with Sonja, who had arrived
in Meridian that morning to offer support. She dropped him off in the
late afternoon (around 5:30 p.m.). Sharon knew Joey was dead but had no
idea what really happened and had no reason at that time to suspect
Kristi. The Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office called her around 6:00
p.m. and wanted to speak with Tyler. Both arrived at the Sheriff's
office, signed a Miranda waiver, and spoke with the officers. Sharon
had no problem with the police questioning Tyler as long as she was
Tyler followed Kristi’s direction and denied knowing anything about
Joey’s death. There was no audiovisual record of this interview. At
the same time, Kristi had been arrested and was sitting in a holding
cell onsite. She had already given a statement indicating Tyler alone
had killed Joey. The officers told Tyler his story didn’t add up
because Kristi had told them something different. At this juncture, an
officer asked Sharon to step outside so they could speak ro Tyler alone
and she complied.
During this period, the officers told Tyler that Kristi stated he
alone killed Joey. Tyler said he didn’t believe she would say something
like that. They offered to bring her in to tell Tyler what she had told
them. The officers placed Kristi in a nearby office, moved Tyler to
that location, and sat him beside her. Sharon was not aware Kristi was
involved in the interrogation in any way. While seated next to Tyler,
Kristi took his hand, squeezed it, and said “I’ve told the truth and now
it’s time for you to tell the truth”. Seemingly, this was the signal she
had directed him to follow the previous day.
The exchange lasted 20 seconds and the officers removed her from the
room. This exchange was never allowed as evidence during the trial.
In the least, Kristi’s interaction with Tyler points to a possible
coercive influence on the confession that followed.
At this point, Tyler told the officers he would like to give another
statement, but he did not want his Momma (Sharon) present. He wanted to
tell her what occurred after speaking to them first. Tyler knew he
couldn’t fulfill Kristi’s request with his Momma present. The officers
brought Tyler out to a break room where Sharon was seated. They waited
together for a time until an officer stood Tyler up and told Sharon he
needed to speak with Tyler for “a minute”. Tyler was then seated back
in the original interview room with two officers and signed another
Miranda waiver (he was yawning and clearly tired while signing
This interview was videotaped and given at 8:48 p.m. (Much of
this written description of that interview and all interview quotes came
from the videotape). Tyler told them that Kristi had picked him up
on Friday, May 10. He indicated very early in the interview that Kristi
had been talking about killing Joey for awhile and said, “She told me
about the gun. I told her I had a gun, but it didn’t work. It was an
old gun and wouldn’t shoot. I got that (the gun) just to say ‘I tried’,
so she’d stop asking me about it. So it couldn’t hurt (anyone)”.
Tyler said he finally brought the gun on Friday to make her happy.
He told the officers they committed the murder together in the pre-dawn
of May 10. Tyler did not fulfill Kristi’s request by saying he did it
alone. His decision to confess that both of them participated can be
interpreted as the mind of a child trying to fulfill Kristi’s immoral
and manipulative request while reconciling in his child’s mind that he
could never commit such an act alone.
His statement of how the murder occurred is contradictory at best.
Tyler told them during his original confession that they held the gun
together and pulled the trigger together. However, he could never give
the officers a clear picture of how the weapon was held by the both of
He said, “We went into his room and I didn’t seriously think it
would work and she was behind me and she put her hand on the trigger and
I put my hand on the trigger. And she kind of squeezed my hand because
we didn’t think it would work. I was holding the gun like this (indicated
the gun butt was on his right shoulder) . . . and she had her hand
on mine. She had her hand (he looked confused) . . . I knew it
was in front of me somehow. So I just closed my eyes (turned his
head to the left) and did it and it went off. I didn’t actually
think it would go off because it was broke”.
An officer asked where the gun came from. Tyler responded, “It had
been in my Dad’s (step-father’s) closet for at least 3 or 4 years.
Nobody ever used it.” He then said, “We did it and she took the
computer and some stuff to make it look . . .”. An officer asked, “Wait
a minute- whenever the shot was fired, was she behind you? Was she
aiming for you”? Tyler responded, “No. I don’t guess so. I was just
holding the gun. I wasn’t really aiming at anything”. The officer
asked, “Did you have it on your shoulder right here”? Tyler said,
“Yeah, I had it right here (indicateds his right shoulder). I
wasn’t really aimin’. I was just pointin’ it somewhere”. According
to this testimony, Tyler did not know if Kristi was aiming the gun (“I
don’t guess so”) and indicated he “wasn’t really aiming at anything”.
The question of who actually aimed the weapon cannot be answered.
From there, an officer asked “And her hand was
around in front of you on the trigger?” Tyler responded with “No,
she just had . . . I guess she was with one hand, I don’t know
where her left hand was. But she had her right hand like right here
(he put his hand on his stomach to show this) on my stomach
and we did it and then after that I heard it go off and I looked at
him (Joey) and saw that it actually hit him”.
In this statement, Tyler said that he had the gun on
his right shoulder with his right finger on the trigger, having no idea
where Kristi’s left hand was located while her right hand was on his
stomach. Kristi is right-handed. This scenario is illogical because
somehow she helped pull the trigger with her right hand on his stomach
and her left hand missing with nobody aiming the gun!
The officers then asked, “Do you know where it hit
him?” Tyler shook his head “no” and looked somewhat confused. The
officer went on to ask, “How do you know that it hit him”? Tyler
responded, “Well, there was like … I saw some blood . . . it was on a
pillow I guess . . . somethin’ white. And there was just some little
sprinkles and I thought it was blood and I (inaudible) and I was cryin’.
But I didn’t think you know, it would really go off and I couldn’t
believe that I did it. And then she took stuff to make it look like
somebody broke in”. Crime scene video later indicated the pillow
casing and bed sheets were a beige color with patterns, not white.
From there, an officer asked, “She did have her
hands on the gun when it went off”? Tyler replied, “I’m not sure”.
The officer responded, “Not sure”? Tyler responded with “cause . .
. (again, he looked confused and tired)”. The officer then
asked, “When she was standing beside you . . .?” Tyler responded
with, “She was like right here beside me (he takes his left arm/hand
and touches his left side)”. The officer asked, “Did she ever
tell you to shoot him or pull the trigger”? Tyler responded with
“She . . .”.
The officer asked, “Did she say anything when she was
standing behind you”? Tyler said, “I don’t know . . . I wasn’t really (he
looked unsure, turned his head to the left for a brief moment and then
turned his head to the right). . . I just closed my eyes. I was
just lettin’ everything go . . . not payin’ attention . . . tryin’ to
stay out of it”. This testimony again shows the contradictory,
confused nature of his story. Kristi’s interaction with Tyler during
his interrogation and the apparent inconsistencies in his confession
point to the distinct possibility that his confession was coerced and
At this point, the interview covered picking up
Kristi’s other kids, driving to Jackson to pick up Kyle Harvey, and
going to the Beau Rivage in Biloxi. The group stayed overnight and
returned to Jackson on Sunday afternoon. Around the time Tyler spoke
about the trip to Gulfport/Biloxi, Sharon stepped in and learned that
her son had been speaking without her consent (again, she
specifically asked this not be done). The interview was stopped at
that time. Tyler was arrested for the murder of Joey Fulgham and
remanded to a cell in the county jail.
Two days later Tyler gave a recantation. The
recantation indicated that as previously mentioned, Kristi had asked
Tyler for a gun to shoot a stray dog. Tyler brought the old .22 which
Kristi unsuccessfully tried to fire on that Friday. Tyler awoke at 4
a.m., put her child and the computer in the car at her request, and they
proceeded to meet Kyle Harvey and spend the weekend at the Gulf Coast.
After dropping of Kyle in Jackson, then hearing about
Joey’s death, they proceeded to Meridian. While in Meridian, Kristi
coerced Tyler to lie to the authorities about the murder she committed.
Tyler went back to West Point, met Sharon and proceeded to the Oktibbeha
County Sheriff’s Office where the interrogations occurred.
The Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s office never found
the murder weapon or any physical evidence to indicate Tyler was
involved. The only physical evidence in the case other than the
bullet was Kristi’s fingerprints on the front porch, motion-sensing
lights. The lights had been disabled before the police secured the
The fingerprints could possibly indicate that Kristi
did not want anyone to see her departure that Saturday morning. The
fingerprints also could possibly indicate that she did not want anyone
to see a potential third party entering the residence at a later time.
Nobody other than Kristi will ever know what motivated her to disable
the motion sensing lights. Tyler was not given bail during the time
before his trial after three attempts although he had no criminal record
and did not give any indication of being a flight risk. Tyler was
tried and found guilty of first degree murder and robbery.
Judge Jim Kitchens did not allow Tyler an expert
witness on false/coerced confessions (Dr. Allison Redlich) during the
trial. However, Kitchens allowed the prosecution’s forensic pathology
expert witness to give an opinion (undisclosed during discovery) that
two people pulled the trigger. The opinion defied logic and was
unsupported by any scientific methodology. Further, this expert witness
claimed he was board-certified to be a forensic pathologist in the state
However, an October, 2006 Reason Magazine
article stated that Hayne “isn’t certified by the American Board of
Pathology, the only organization recognized by the National Association
of Medical Examiners and the American Board of Medical Specialties as
capable of certifying forensic pathologists. According to depositions
from other cases, Hayne failed the American Board of Pathology exams
when he left halfway through, deeming the questions ‘absurd’. Instead,
his C.V. indicates that he’s certified by two organizations, one of
which (the American Board of Forensic Pathology) isn’t recognized by the
American Board of Medical Specialties. The other (the American Academy
of Forensic Examiners) doesn’t seem to exist. Judging from his
testimony in other depositions, it’s likely Hayne meant to list the
American College of Forensic Examiners. According to Hayne, the group
certified him through the mail based on ‘life experience,’ with no
examination at all. Several forensics experts described the American
College of Forensic Examiners to me as a ‘pay your money, get your
certification’ organization. A February 2000 article in the American
Bar Association Journal makes similar allegations, with one psychologist
who was certified through the group saying, ‘Everything was negotiable-for
Judge Kitchens did not allow the defense to actually
present any evidence that Kristi Fulgham, acting without Tyler, had the
motivation (mainly money) and the will to kill Joey Fulgham. Testimony
that Kristi asked Danny Edmonds for a gun to shoot Joey and promised him
part of the life insurance money was not allowed by Kitchens.
Further, a 2000 appearance on the “Montel Williams
Show” showing the tumultuous nature of Kristi and Joey’s relationship
was not allowed into testimony at Tyler’s trial. This appearance showed
that Joey would remind Kristi during daily arguments that “She messed
up, big” in reference to her child fathered by his best friend. Dr.
Hayne’s “two-fingers on the trigger” theory and the non-admittance of
the “Montel Williams” videotape were critical factors in the recent
Mississipi Supreme Court ruling to reverse Tyler’s sentence and remand
his case back to the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court for a new trial (please
see the entire Mississippi Supreme Court ruling in the “Supreme Court
Appeal Articles” section of the Case History area).
Another potentially influencing factor in the outcome
of Tyler’s trial was the jurors were instructed by Judge Kitchens that
Tyler could not get the death penalty but did not indicate that Tyler
could be given an automatic life sentence if convicted. Further, Judge
Kitchens had the discretion to move the trial to youth court, especially
since Tyler had no criminal record, history of violence, or gang
Also, Judge Kitchens did not allow the defense to
indicate that Tyler recanted his confession. Finally, Judge
Kitchens did not allow television cameras into the courtroom denying
Tyler the right to a public trial, and denying the public and press
their first amendment rights. With these various factors taken into
account, it is apparent Tyler Wayne Edmonds was not allowed a
constitutionally fair trial.
Tyler’s non-violent nature would never allow him to participate in
this heinous act. Kristi Fulgham had a very strong motivation to kill
and rob Joey Fulgham (money) where Tyler had absolutely none. However,
Kristi Fulgham’s extremely coercive influence pushed Tyler to make a
false confession to crimes he did not commit. The inconsistencies from
Tyler’s confession along with Kristi’s direct influence during his
interrogation point to a false confession. Further, there is absolutely
no physical evidence to implicate Tyler in these crimes. Tyler Wayne
Edmonds is innocent of these crimes. Free Tyler Edmonds!