January 4, 2012 12:48:00 PM
JACKSON -- A federal three-judge appeals panel has scheduled a hearing in New Orleans on Friday on efforts by Tyler Edmonds to revive his wrongful imprisonment lawsuit.
In 2010, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. in Mississippi dismissed the suit, ruling that law enforcement officers did nothing unconstitutional in the handling of Edmonds' confession in 2003.
Edmonds appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Edmonds and his mother, Sharon Clay, sued Oktibbeha County in 2009, saying Edmonds was wrongfully convicted of murder "based on an alleged coerced confession taken by law enforcement officers."
Edmonds, who was 14 at the time, was arrested May 12, 2003, and accused in the death of Joey Fulgham, who was married to Edmonds' half-sister, Kristi Fulgham.
His confession reportedly came after Edmonds and his mother were separated, and then Kristi told him to "tell them" what he had done. Edmonds was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, but a second trial jury acquitted him.
Edmonds told The Dispatch, "My rights were violated because me being a minor and my mother had the right to be in the room with me. Oktibbeha County is claiming we did not have that right. Whichever way the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decides, it will set a precedent because it will either change the way things are done in Oktibbeha County or it won't. It reiterates the importance of this lawsuit. I'm keeping my fingers crossed."
Biggers said Edmonds' rights were not violated by law enforcement. He also rejected Clay's claim she had the right to be present during Edmonds' interrogation.
"I hope, in some way, the things that happened to me can teach the public in general that it's not OK to treat children as adults," Edmonds said. I think it's very hypocritical to tell me, at 13, 'You can't drive a car or sign a lease, but you're charged with a crime so you're an adult.' I think that it's a double standard and is hypocritical. I hope and pray to God it doesn't happen to anyone else."
Kristi Fulgham is serving a life sentence for her role in the killing.
"Since 2003, it hasn't been easy," Edmonds said. "I'm at the point where I'd like for it to be over so I can move on, but I've learned to live with it. The human spirit is an amazing thing."
Dispatch staff writer David Miller contributed to this story.
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