Mississippi officials have moved to execute the first woman in the state since 1944, despite repeated confessions from the inmate’s son that he committed the murder.
Michelle Byrom, 57, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000 for the murder of her husband, Edward Byrom Sr. He was shot to death in bed in June 1999, after years of physically and verbally abusing his wife and son.
Prosecutors said Michelle Byrom, who was hospitalized for pneumonia at the time of the killing, conspired with her son to hire her son’s friend, Joey Gillis, to kill her husband, according to CNN.
Byrom’s son, Edward Byrom Jr., testified that his mother hired his friend for the crime. But in three separate letters – excerpts of which were published this week by the Jackson Free Press — Byrom Jr. claimed to be the shooter. He also told a state-appointed psychologist that he killed his dad, but neither the letters nor his conversation with the psychologist were heard in court.
Michelle Byrom admitted to a role in the crime after the sheriff asked her whether she would let her son take the blame. Her response was, “No, he’s not going to. I wouldn’t let him. … I will take all the responsibility. I’ll do it,” according to the Clarion-Ledger.
Ultimately, Byrom Jr. took a plea deal with prosecutors, agreeing to testify against his mother in return for a lighter sentence. He was released from prison last year.
Michelle Byrom’s lawyers planned to introduce her son’s letters mid-trial to prove he lied on the stand. However, the prosecution blocked them from producing the letters, saying they could not be introduced as new evidence in the middle of the trial.
Joey Gillis, who never testified, told a court-appointed psychologist that Byrom Jr. did the shooting. However, after Michelle Byrom was convicted, Gillis agreed to a plea deal, pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit capital murder and accessory after the fact. He was released in 2009.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood requested in February that Michelle Byrom be executed by lethal injection on March 27. The looming execution outraged critics who believe she is innocent, and also point out that she is mentally ill after decades of abuse at the hands of her father and, later, Byrom Sr.
“She’s been abused as a child, abused as a wife and now, she’s being judicially abused,” Warren Yoder, executive director of the Public Policy Center of Mississippi,told the Jackson Free Press.
The Mississippi Supreme Court has not yet announced whether they will allow the execution to go forward.