After reading the recent comments in The Commercial Dispatch regarding District Attorney Forrest Allgood (Forrest Allgood responds, July 26, 2011, Voice of the people), I couldn”t refrain from weighing in with my experiences.
I am not here to make any inaccurate or false accusations. I am here however to straighten out a few half truths presented by Mr. Allgood and present the facts. Half truths, I believe, are lies.
Mr. Allgood contributed to me spending six years — most of it my childhood — fighting for my life and my freedom. Mr. Allgood made several arguments in an attempt to defend himself regarding my case and a few others. The only case I am familiar with is my own, therefore, I will not speak about the other cases that were mentioned as I do not know the facts of those cases.
The first thing that is a half truth in what Mr. Allgood stated is that he had nothing to do with me being charged as an adult, rather I was charged as an adult because that is what Mississippi law mandates. This is not entirely true. The law does mandate that the Circuit Court have original jurisdiction.
However, the law also states that the Circuit Court may make the determination that the case be transferred back to Youth Court unless Youth Court had original jurisdiction and then transferred such a case to Circuit Court previously.
What that breaks down to is this: My case was sent to Circuit Court originally as it should have been, though at any time the presiding judge (Jim Kitchens) could have handed my case back down to Youth Court OR the State (Mr. Allgood representing) could have filed a motion to have my case transferred to Youth Court. Neither of those things ever occurred. As a matter of fact, my attorneys filed several motions to have my case transferred down to Youth Court, none of which were granted, and ALL of which were strongly opposed by Mr. Allgood.
My second issue with Mr. Allgood is his blaming me for the “two shooter” theory. Yes, the original theory came out of my mouth. That theory came out of my scared, 13-year-old mouth. However, three days later, I went back and told the sheriff what had really happened, and that the “two shooter” thing was not true.
Mr. Allgood and his crew chose to believe the prior statement I made, and ran free with that theory knowing very well that the Supreme Court had stated previously that any statement made by a juvenile should be weighed carefully and subjectively.
Mr. Allgood chose to put Dr. Steven Hayne on the stand. If Mr. Allgood had nothing to do with the presentation of that theory, and did not believe in the science of that theory, why did he insist that Dr. Hayne was qualified to make such a scientifically unfounded assessment and furthermore, why did he not put a stop to the “quakspertise” as the Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Diaz called it? If Mr. Allgood”s interests truly lie in justice, he would have.
In any event, Mr. Allgood states that he asked “whether or not Tyler Edmonds” version of the facts as given in his confession was consistent with the doctor”s findings.” At no point do I ever recall Dr. Steven Hayne to be qualified in any way as a crime scene expert. Dr. Hayne”s qualifications as a pathologist are to the extent that he may determine a medical cause of death, not that he may observe a crime scene and establish a hypothesis as to how a crime was actually committed. Mr. Allgood”s relying on Dr. Hayne for anything other than determining a cause of death and how death physically, biologically occurred within a body is down right negligent, and the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed.
Mr. Allgood wants convictions no matter how hollow the “justice” he seeks may be. Mr. Allgood is a GREAT prosecutor, and he is great at getting convictions. But at what cost? Because Mr. Allgood is quick to rush to judgment and is more focused on numbers — crime victims” families suffer, justice suffers, and because of him directly, new victims are created in the process.
Wake up Mississippi. Anyone who has had as many death row and life sentences overturned as Mr. Allgood has is obviously not doing something right.
The Mississippi Supreme Court doesn”t overturn convictions for the fun of it.
Take my case for instance. Mr. Allgood DIRECTLY contributed to my wrongful conviction. Because HE didn”t dot his I”s and cross his T”s, not only did the victims have to suffer once or twice, they had to relive the pain THREE times. And when you factor in how this affected myself and my family, that”s a mighty high price to pay just because Mr. Allgood wants to defer his responsibility onto others, his assistant district attorneys included.
The job of the district attorney is a heavy burden for any man to carry, and it”s also the most unique legal position of any lawyer out there practicing. It is the responsibility of Mr. Allgood as the district attorney to represent the people of his district. Not just the victim and the community, but the person charged with a crime as well. It is his responsibility to ensure that he presents all of the facts, and only the facts, in a way that is not overly prejudicial to either side of the case. He is in a position where he is to present factual information and evidence, and let that evidence speak for itself.
The fact that Mr. Allgood knowingly presented scientifically unfounded — fabricated — evidence in my case alone demonstrates his inability to carry out his duties as he should.
Some may argue that the buck stops with the presiding judge as it is his responsibility to ensure that charged persons are to receive a fair trial. While this may be true, this in no way excuses Mr. Allgood or any other prosecutor from misconduct, albeit legal or ethical.
I ask if I were to steal an item from a store and my parents knowingly did nothing about it, does that then make it OK for me to steal? Clearly not, and the same goes for Mr. Allgood”s legal practices. Because the presiding judge may not say anything does not mean that Mr. Allgood”s duty to present truthfully and fairly has been relieved.
It”s time for a change, people. Mr. Allgood is human, and God bless him, he is allowed to make a few small mistakes along the way just as we all are. However, once, twice, thrice, FOUR times …. come on. Mr. Allgood, it”s time for you to go. It”s time to get someone in there who does the job the right way the FIRST time, and someone who doesn”t make death row mistakes. This isn”t just politics; these are people”s lives.
In the words of Mr. Allgood “It”s political season in Mississippi,” the gates of hell are opened wide and the devil himself has risen. When you go to vote on Tuesday, make sure you consider the facts. The source is irrelevant.
Tyler Edmonds, previously of Starkville, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2004, at the age of 13, for the shooting death of his half-sister Kristi Fulgham”s husband, Joey Fulgham. He was acquitted in 2008 and currently lives in Yuma, Ariz.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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