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Fulgham wins new hearing in contraband in jail case

November 6, 2010

JACKSON — The Mississippi Supreme Court has ordered a new evidentiary hearing for Kristi Fulgham, who challenged her conviction of passing a cell phone and charger to another inmate in the Oktibbeha County jail.
The Supreme Court said Friday that the trial judge should determine whether Fulgham knew the items were “prohibited electronic devices” under jail rules.
Fulgham’s appeal stated that the Mississippi Code 47-5-193 — the statute under which Fulgham was charged in the cell phone passing incident — was vague in its wording and has since been twice amended to specifically mention the terms “cell phone” and “charger,” according to the Supreme Court ruling.
The vague nature of the statute makes it unconstitutional, making it impossible for her to
know whether they were unauthorized, she argued.
She also argued that her trial counsel was ineffective for failing to advise her of the statute’s vagueness.
The evidentiary hearing ordered by the Supreme Court will determine the following:
• Whether Fulgham “had notice” that a cell phone and charger constituted an electronic device.
• Whether Fulgham “had notice” that they were unauthorized.
• Whether law enforcement officers had definite standards to avoid arbitrary enforcement.
The outcome of the hearing could determine whether the statute is unconstitutional as applied to Fulgham and whether relief — a new trial on the charge — should be granted.
In January 2006, Fulgham pleaded guilty to charges that included a 2004 attempt to escape from the Oktibbeha jail and furnishing a cell phone and charger to inmates. She was serving an eight-year sentence.
The Supreme Court last week threw out Fulgham’s death sentence in the 2003 slaying of her husband.
The court ordered a new sentencing hearing.

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