Attorney who’s not a candidate seeks to derail judge’s re-election

Published 7:22 pm Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Tupelo attorney Jim Waide isn’t running for office but he’s spent more than $5,000 of his own money in a campaign to derail the re-election bid of a circuit judge.

Wade apparently doesn’t even know the candidate challenging Circuit Court Judge Jim Kitchens Jr. very well. He just doesn’t want Kitchens to be successful in Tuesday’s election.

“The first requirement for a judge is to be fair,” Waide said. “I have never met a judge so blatantly unfair as Judge Kitchens.”

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While Kitchens disputes Waide’s claim that he’s unfair, he isn’t making a big deal out of Waide’s critical ads.

“He’s got the money, and I guess the right to do it,” Kitchens said.

It is rare for a practicing attorney, who is not a candidate, to publicly criticize a sitting judge.

Waide has run broadcast and print ads in the Columbus and Starkville area in opposition to Kitchens re-election. He said one newspaper, in West Point, had refused to run his ad.

Kitchens is challenged Tuesday by Starkville lawyer Roy A. Perkins in the circuit court district that includes Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee and Oktibbeha counties.

Waide’s animosity with Kitchens stems from the murder trial of a client, teenager Tyler Edmonds.

Edmonds, now 16, was convicted of murder in 2004 in the shooting death of his half sisters husband and is serving a life sentence. He was 13 at the time of the slaying.

Kitchens noted that the state Court of Appeals decision in February affirming his decision said he made “no reversible or human error” in the Edmonds case.

In July, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed to review the case. Edmonds and his half sister, Kristi Fulgham, were charged with shooting Joey Fulgham in 2003 while he slept at home. Kristi Fulgham’s trial is scheduled for Dec. 4.

In appealing his conviction, Edmonds says he falsely confessed to the murder. He later retracted his confession.

While the prosecution’s case relied heavily on Edmonds’ confession, Waide said the defense wasn’t allowed to put on evidence that juveniles have a tendency to falsely admit to crimes under pressure.

Waide said Kitchens, a former prosecutor, favored the prosecution in nearly all his rulings in Edmonds trial.

“His ruling was not designed to give a fair trial,” Waide said. “You can’t have that attitude in a criminal case.”

Kitchens’ wife, JoAnne, who is treasurer of her husband’s re-election campaign, said, “He is a very compassionate judge who believes in following the law … He enforces and follows the law, but he doesn’t make the law.”