U.S. Supreme Court scheduled to decide whether to hear Edmonds appeal

Published 11:47 pm Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tyler Edmonds wants the U.S. Supreme Court to determine when he was coerced into confessing to a role in the killing of his brother-in-law.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to discuss the case on Nov. 30 and decide later whether to hear Edmonds’ appeal. A decision could be announced shortly thereafter.

Edmonds, now 17, has already served three years in prison and faces decades more if convicted again in the 2003 killing of Joey Fulgham. He won a new trial from the Mississippi Supreme Court in May and is free on bond. No new trial date has been announced.

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The Mississippi court did not throw out the teenager’s contested confession, “which is really the only evidence,” said Jim Waide of Tupelo, Edmonds’ attorney.

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 has been automatically appealed.

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 the trial judge 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.

Another case the U.S. Supreme Court will study on Nov. 30 is that of death row inmate Quintez Hodges.

Hodges was sentenced to death in 2001 for the killing his ex-girlfriend’s brother two years earlier. Hodges was convicted of capital murder in the July 21, 1999, fatal shooting of Isaac Johnson, 17.

Hodges also was sentenced to 20 years for kidnapping Johnson’s sister, Cora Johnson, and her baby. Authorities said Hodges was the ex-boyfriend of Cora Johnson and the father of her child. The woman and her daughter were not harmed.

Last December, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied Hodges’ 16-point appeal, which included claims of prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective help from his defense attorney.

Authorities said Isaac Johnson’s body was discovered in the bedroom of his mother’s home in Caledonia. Johnson died of a single gunshot wound to the abdomen.