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By The Associated Press
JACKSON â A federal court panel has upheld a ruling by a Mississippi federal judge that law enforcement officers did nothing unconstitutional in the handling of Tyler Edmondsâ confession in 2003.
Edmonds and his mother, Sharon Clay, sued Oktibbeha County in 2009, saying Edmonds was wrongfully convicted of murder âbased on an alleged coerced confession taken by law enforcement officers.â
Judge Jerry E. Smith, writing Monday for a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said Edmondsâ confession was voluntary.
Smith said Edmondsâ âseparation from his mother, his desire to please adults, and his inexperience with the criminal justice system all weigh against voluntariness, his express desire to help his sister decides the issue.â
Edmonds, who was 14 at the time, was arrested May 12, 2003, and accused in the death of Joey Fulgham, who was married to Edmondsâ half-sister, Kristi Fulgham.
His confession reportedly came after Edmonds and his mother were separated, and then Kristi told him to âtell themâ what he had done. Edmonds was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, but a second trial jury acquitted him.
Kristi Fulgham is serving a life sentence for her role in the killing.
The Mississippi federal judge said in 2010 that Edmondsâ rights were not violated by law enforcement. He also rejected Clayâs claim she had the right to be present during Edmondsâ interrogation.
Smith said Edmonds appeared to have desired the separation âso that he could falsely confess without triggering the eventual emotional downpour.â
âAlthough some circumstances in this case may indicate susceptibility to police coercion, their relevance pales beside Edmondsâs stated desire to help his sister. Improper police tactics did not implant that desire. In all likelihood, Fulghamâs manipulation did.
âThere is no evidence that, absent Edmondsâ resolve to reduce Fulghamâs punishment, the deputiesâ interrogation tactics would have produced a confession. Fulgham may have used her brotherâs love to make him lie on her behalf, but there is no evidence that the deputies knew of her plan,â Smith wrote.