Children Should Have a Chance

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Kidsincourt, an international organization, believes children should have a chance.

As quoted by Katy Porter, Administrator for Kidsincourt, an international organization, says, “I believe children should have a chance to be rehabilitated.” Rep. George Flaggs Jr. of Mississippi is one of the authors of House Bill 1090, known as Tyler's Law, has stated “ Children can be rehabilitated and need a chance in life.”

Under House Bill 1090, a judge could consider whether juveniles sentenced to life in prison - like teenager Tyler Edmonds - should be paroled when they turn 18. The court could decide at a hearing whether the offender had been rehabilitated, and should be referred to the State Parole Board.

        (d) When an offender reaches the age of eighteen (18) or after the juvenile disposition expires, the court shall hold a hearing to determine if the offender has been sufficiently rehabilitated. Among other relevant factors, the court shall consider academic progress, medical and mental health history, facility disciplinary records and recommendations of the youth court counselor and the Department of Human Services. Based on evidence presented at the hearing, the court shall:

        (i) Revoke the suspension and direct that the offender be taken into immediate custody of the Department of Corrections; or

        (ii) Direct that the offender be placed on probation; or

        (iii) Release the offender from the terms of the juvenile disposition and the suspended criminal sentence.

As reported in the Clarion Ledger in Jackson Miss., on February 24, 2006 stated that, Sen. Gray Tollison, whose Senate Judiciary B Committee has the bill, said he has no plans to bring up the legislation, which is facing a Tuesday deadline. The proposal, he said, would erode a jury's decision to send the offender to prison. "This is a jury of 12 people in that county where the crime occurred or allegedly occurred, and it's up to them to make the decision of whether the juvenile is guilty of that crime beyond a reasonable doubt," said Tollison, D-Oxford.

House Juvenile Justice Committee Chairman George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, who proposed the bill, called its apparent demise "grossly unfair" to juvenile offenders. "There should not be life for a child that goes into the system at 13, 14 years old."

Under Mississippi law, juveniles charged with the violent crimes of rape, murder and armed robbery are tried as adults, and a conviction carries a life sentence. This proposed Bill 1090, surfaced after Tyler Edmonds was convicted in 2004 of murdering his half sister's husband. Tyler is now 16, he was 13 years old at the time. The Jury at Tyler’s hearing found Tyler guilty of second degree murder because, they felt he was at the scene of the incident. This same jury was not properly instructed by Judge Kitchens and had no idea Tyler would be sentenced to life in prison.

However, following the appeals hearing, Judge Joseph Lee, while agreeing to uphold Edmonds' conviction, questioned the severity of a life sentence on a juvenile.

Tyler Edmonds is the kind of child who trusted adults. He was taught that it is his duty to respect his adults and believe them. Tyler was easily swayed by adults. His own sister, Kristy Fulgam convinced her half bother to accept the responsibility for a crime he did not commit. During his own trial, when asked why he stated, “Kristy and I both pulled the trigger, I figured if I said we both did it, we would only be in half as much trouble”. Tyler has always thought of other’s before himself. Each year around Christmas, Tyler asks friends and family to pick up a Christmas Tree Angel supported by the Salvation Army. He said “I want children who are not fortunate enough, to have a nice Christmas”. Tyler studies hard, even while he is incarcerated in Walnut Grove. Tyler Edmonds wants to be a nurse, so he can help other’s get well.

Katy Porter stated “The laws across this nation need to change if juveniles are going to be subject to adult mandatory sentencing guidelines. Cases involving children need to be put back into the hands of the court and not at the hands of the prosecuting attorney’s. Judges need to be able to use discretion at the time of sentencing. Each case needs to be reviewed on an individual basis. NO Child should be tried as an adult.” For information on this case and many others, please visit http://www.kidsincourt.net.

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Katy Porter