August 21st, 2009
03:11 PM ET

After wrongful conviction, young man shares '10 things I've learned'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/21/art.vert.mattingly.tyler.jpg caption="David Mattingly talks to Tyler Edmonds, who adopted his dog from an animal shelter." width=292 height=320]

David Mattingly | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

When other 14-year-old boys were playing football, learning to drive and chasing girls, Tyler Edmonds was locked up with adults serving a life sentence in a Mississippi prison for a murder he didn't commit.

Now a free man after winning a new trial and an acquittal, Tyler comes across as an easy-going 20-year-old. But he carries a lot of resentment toward the state's expert witness whose testimony helped put him away for nearly four years.

It only took a few questions from me for it all to come spilling out.

For more details please see my story about Tyler on AC360° tonight. For now, I thought it was best to share something from Tyler that shows what a strong and thoughtful person he has struggled to become.

These are Tyler's "10 Things I've Learned" ...enjoy.

1. I've learned that you can keep going long after you think you can't.

2. I've learned that sometimes bad things just happen and you have to deal with them and move on.

3. I've learned that people make mistakes. You can either hate them and live in the past, or you can forgive them and move on.

4. I've learned that nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and anything worth having is worth fighting for.

5. I've learned that no matter how bad I may have it, there's always someone else who has it worse; so if they can do it, so can I.

6. I've learned that there is ALWAYS hope, no matter what.

7. I've learned to never take anything for granted.

8. I've learned that a lot of times you have to do things you really don't want to do.

9. I've learned to NEVER give up.

10. I've learned that you never stop learning. Everyday is a lesson, and today is just a test of yesterday's lesson.

*Live life with passion; take nothing for granted, and give thanks for everything. –Tyler Edmonds

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Paul W from Santa Clara

    And it is time to put police and officers of the court on the spot. No immunity for them. Knowingly distorting, omitting and hiding evidence that would disprove guilt and ends up in a felony conviction must be considered a class A Felony and treated that way.

    The phony evidence-sniffing dog handler should have been sentenced to life., The investigators who forced an inmate to bear false witness should go to jail. The DA who tried to send the Duke University athletes to Prison for a rape they did not commit should himself now be in prison. It goes on and on, and happens everywhere. Our legal system is corrupt and the only ones who pay are hundreds, maybe thousands of innocent people left to rot or are sitting on Death Row while we pass time debating innocence at the water cooler.

    August 24, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  2. Paul W from Santa Clara

    These are lessons you learn when the only other choice is despair or murderous hatred. These are essences, things we know of but only take to heart in the midst of crises. The real challenge Tyler faces is to live these ideals now that he is free and to in his hidden thoughts come to terms with the injustice he was singled out for.

    It is good that he is young. It is good that he was exonerated by people who cared, and it was good that he knew people cared even when he would otherwise have thought he was forgotten. I hope he gets a decent settlement from the state and goes on to be a doctor, a scientist, or a surfer. But not a lawyer, or even someone working full time to free the innocent, because then he'd shape his life by the actions of the few who committed a miscarriage of justice.

    This is his best moment to get ahead in life, he should use every bit of it and live the rest of his life in prosperity and dignity.

    August 24, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  3. a broken hearted mother

    This story is very near to my heart, the battle is still on to assist someone I love very much in having a conviction overturned that left a 24 yo with 124 years, never being convicted before in life. This story gives us hope and offers a glimpse of freedom to the wrongfully accused. Thank you CNN/Anderson Cooper for allowing our lives to be an open book. The parents who live with this situation daily and still find strength to continue to maintain a somewhat sane existence only find solitude in stories of this nature. God Bless all who are in the struggle with me, It helps to know that someone out there is praying for me.
    To Dominick: Never give up, we all care, venues like this will allow your stories to be told, read all the info posted, write it down and contact as many organizations as possible, someone will help, just be persistent!!
    Thanks Tamia, you have a wealth of info, I needed it desperately!!!

    August 24, 2009 at 10:00 am |
  4. Rocky

    I never knew that there is a country like this ... the US of A where such a thing can happen.
    A innocent person has been treated worse than a dog.

    I dont know how can one human being do this to another even when the other person is guilty of some wrong doing.

    And this is the case where this person has done nothing wrong.
    Wow..... my God ... i dont want to live with some butchers who cant even respect life.
    They have no concept of forgiveness and sympathy.
    They only believe in fixing a wrong with another wrong.

    The whole justice department should learn from the wrongs they have done in the last three decades 'cause they need to face a higher power pretty soon.

    August 22, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  5. Shalawra Rabel

    Ty, It takes many years for people to understand what you have learned. It is wonderful to know that you have taken the negativity of life to raise up positively. Its not easy, but you have done it.. keep going. God bless you.

    August 22, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  6. dominick neals

    Thank you very much Tania

    August 22, 2009 at 2:22 am |
  7. joan

    thankyou for sharing with us Tyler. All the best.

    August 22, 2009 at 2:16 am |
  8. Mace

    Tyler is one of the lucky people allowed to prove their innocence. Please visit FREEPAULCORTEZ.org and read about this wonderful person who needs the opportunity to prove his innocence in a fair and just court. Wrongful convictions will continue to happen if fairminded people turn their backs on these injustices.

    August 22, 2009 at 1:49 am |
  9. Tania

    Dominick...I'd say forget lawyers and head straight for Innocence Project. Every state has a way to get help, but not all states have their own office...search on "Innocence Project, PA"....Much better to go see in person than try to get this addressed by e-mail. However Innocence Project deals only with DNA cases...they didn't do much of anything to help Tyler except stay in the communication loop a bit.
    If it's not a DNA case, they may have someone to refer you to.

    Ballko is pretty picky about his cases. He wrote a few words about Tyler, but only because he hates Dr. Stephen Hayne. However, Balko also hates evil District Attorneys....he's not the kind of guy to get personal or help a lot, but if there's anything that connects with one of his stories, he might pick up on it. Go to Reason.com to look at his work...he's prolific...you have to search a good bit through his stuff.

    You can set up as many Google Alerts as you want so if anyone is publishing anything in press or on net, you will be notified and the article sent to you. With Tyler, I found a blog that defense attorneys (some retired) they used to gripe on....they had ideas and provided support. If there is an evildoer common to these cases, set up Google Search using that person's name...if it's out in the press contact press person/others in article.

    You can set search on terms like "wrongfully convicted, PA" and you might be surprised what you will find. If these are juveniles, get in touch with Justiceforjuveniles.org.

    Innocence Project relies on law students...check into a law school in PA to see if they might help....e-mail law school profs...don't worry about bothering them.

    You can set up a website telling the stories...be sure to link them to terms like "wrongfully convicted."

    I contacted press if they published anything on the topic....they need to know people care about these issues.

    KEEP THE FAITH!!!. I NEVER thought I'd see the day Tyler would come home. It was a draining/exhausting experience, but I'm so glad I did what I did. I am "old lady," but we are dear friends and will be forever. I have helped a couple other juveniles and they are friends for life, too.

    When you feel down and discouraged and hopeless, write to them and let them know you care. Just talk about your life and what's going on...ramble all you want....contact with outside world, just knowing others care can make the difference between lost soul and someone who can function upon release. You can help keep them alive. If you know them, remind them continually of who they really are and how they are different from others they are housed with...do your best to help them rise above....Mail is not that expensive, but it helps people stay alive. Go to visitation if you can....even if it's just once a year.

    Tell us more about these cases. Others may have more ideas.

    Hang in there and know there are others like you who DO care!

    August 22, 2009 at 1:22 am |
  10. Belinda

    Simple yet very profound. Harder to activate than one thinks. Thanks for sharing.

    August 22, 2009 at 1:06 am |
  11. Janet

    Tyler thanks for your story and I wish you luck in your life. Dominick is right. The lawyers, police,and prosecutors don't care. They will have to admit to a horrible mistake. Local lawyers will not take on the local police and prosecutors.

    I moved back to the south in MS. I have a nephew in LA serving a life 300 years for 2 rapes, and attempted murder he did not commit. DNA testing proved he did not rape anyone. The prosecutor had the nerve to write a letter on his letter hear saying they had a DNA match even though the FBI crime lab said in one rape the DNA did not match, the other rape (the police and prosecutor did not turn in the rape kit-was from years prior), and the attempted murder (the bullet is still in the woman's leg) and was from years prior. They cleared their books and made the crime fit him, by creating so called evidence. All of the victims testimony cleared him, but the jury was 11 whites and 1 black man with a 3rd grade education. Racism is alive and well in the South.

    I no longer belive in the justice system. This has been hard on my family. Very hard.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  12. natalie

    Thx for sharing ...The circumstances has shaped you to become a stronger person !
    God bless you, Tyler

    August 21, 2009 at 10:43 pm |
  13. Alex Ingram

    Tyler i have known you forever now, one of your best friends for quite a while. I guess i never really asked what you have learned from your situation. I really look up to you buddy. I love you man.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:26 pm |
  14. Elizabeth, Mississippi

    Remarkable life lessons from a young person. Tyler has an awesome outlook and huge potential for great things in life. I applaud his courage in continuing to speak out for justice for all, especially juveniles. Thank you CNN for picking up this story and hopefully by airing in nationally, making a difference for many people. I look forward to seeing the full story tonight on AC 360!

    August 21, 2009 at 10:25 pm |
  15. emily Hendricks

    I was wrongfully convicted in Philadelphia in 2003 of false swearing against police officers. The police sergeant at the Bureau of Internal Affairs there who "investigated" my complaints had been sued for almost a half a million dollars about ten years before for wrongful arrest, imprisonment, and malicious prosecution for the arrest of two mentally retarded, young, black men. After being found liable for violating their constitutional rights, she got to keep her job with the Philly Police Force, and was eventually assigned to the Bureau of Internal Affairs where she remains till this very day.
    Wrongful convictions ARE A LOT MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK. By the way, this information about her was inadmissable during my trial.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:04 pm |
  16. Dani

    Thanks for sharing Tyler. Wishing you the best.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:02 pm |
  17. Susan, Vancouver

    Dominick, people care if someone is unjustly accused. Have you contacted the Innocence Project? Also, there must be Lawyers in your area that would be willing to look at this.

    August 21, 2009 at 9:12 pm |
  18. Susan, Vancouver

    Wow! Tyler, keep writing – tell your story.

    August 21, 2009 at 8:53 pm |
  19. dominick neals

    i see yall dont care too!!

    August 21, 2009 at 8:47 pm |
  20. dominick neals

    this has been a prob for a long time in harrisburg pa

    August 21, 2009 at 8:46 pm |
  21. dominick neals

    need your help please

    August 21, 2009 at 8:45 pm |
  22. dominick neals

    help me help 5 people get out i have info on a murder but my city police wont help they got who the want but there wrong. Willing to talk!!!

    August 21, 2009 at 8:40 pm |
  23. Lilibeth

    These lessons are very inspirational indeed. We can learn a lot from this young man. I wish him the very best.

    Edmonds, Washington

    August 21, 2009 at 8:18 pm |
  24. Annie Kate

    He's learned a lot in the 20 years he's been alive – some of the things he listed in his top 10 take some people to a much older age to learn.

    August 21, 2009 at 7:59 pm |
  25. Tania

    Actually, Tyler never had to "struggle" to become the amazing person he is. He's always been that way.

    Very happy you had the experience to meet him and see just how incredible this young man is :)....this is a kid I could not turn my back on, and you should feel good about sharing his story.

    August 21, 2009 at 7:04 pm |
  26. Tun Ho

    Number 11, get the H*ll out of Mississippi.

    August 21, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  27. Steve

    Is this where you credit Radley Balko with being the one who actually discovered and has been writing about this story since 2007? Or an attempt to marginalize the comments asking this very question in the earlier post about this story?

    August 21, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  28. Paul Ernest Show

    I was just discussing false accusations with a friend a little while ago.
    I do not see how people would have others locked away or even condemned to death based on false testimony, and still able to live with themselves.

    August 21, 2009 at 5:08 pm |
  29. Cat Walters

    Thank you, Tyler, for sharing these hard fought lessons with us.

    August 21, 2009 at 5:06 pm |