Defense says teen could get bail while awaiting new murder trial

Published 9:59 pm Saturday, May 12, 2007

At 17 years old, an age when most teenagers are looking forward to their high school graduations, Tyler Edmonds is just hoping to get out of prison.

Edmonds, who at the age of 13 was convicted of killing his brother-in-law and has spent most of teenage life behind bars, could be released on bond as early as Friday, his legal team says.

Edmonds was convicted of murder in Oktibbeha County in 2004 in the shooting death of Joey Fulgham. He was sentenced to life in prison.

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His half-sister, Kristi Fulgham, was convicted of capital murder in the case in December and sentenced to death. She joins two other women on Mississippi’s death row. Edmonds has claimed his sister tricked him into confessing to the crime.

The Supreme Court in January reversed Edmonds’ conviction, but the state filed a petition for a rehearing in hopes the justices would reconsider the decision. The high court denied the petition for a rehearing Thursday, which was the last obstacle in the way of Edmonds getting a new trial.

The decision came almost four years to the day since Edmonds was jailed on May 12, 2003. He could be transferred from the Walnut Grove prison to the custody of Oktibbeha County as early as Friday, said Jerry Young, who works for Edmonds’ attorney, Jim Waide.

“At that time, we’ll try to get him out on bail and we should be able to,” Young said. “He was not only happy. He was relieved.”

Tara Booth, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Corrections, said Edmonds will be released from MDOC custody when officials receive the order.

“Once we receive the order, we will work with Oktibbeha County to come pick him up,” Booth said.

A new trial date has not been set.

Edmonds was convicted of capital murder and cannot be tried on the same charge. Because he will face a simple murder charge in the next trial, Young said he’s confident the teen will be released on bail.

Authorities say Joey Fulgham was shot in the head in 2003 as he slept in his home near Starkville. Prosecutors believe robbery was the motive and that Kristi Fulgham wanted her husband dead after she left him for another man. They say she enlisted the help of her younger brother.

Exactly who shot Joey Fulgham has been a major point of contention. In reversing Edmonds’ conviction, the Supreme Court cited discrepancies in testimony and threw out the conviction because they say Edmonds didn’t get a fair trial.

Prosecutors’ “theory was that both Kristi and Tyler were both holding the gun when Joey was killed. That was the state’s theory,” Young said. “They put this doctor on and let him say that from looking at the bullet hole, he could see there was a likelihood that two people were holding the gun, which is totally ridiculous.”

Presiding Justice Bill Waller Jr., writing for the Supreme Court in January, said the only evidence that Tyler was involved in the murder was Kristi Fulgham’s allegations and a disputed confession given by Edmonds.

“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.”

Waller said 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.”