A Mississippi woman is slated be executed on Thursday for a murder her son confessed to carrying out.
Michelle Byrom’s conviction dates back to 1999, when a jury found her guilty of murdering her husband, Edward Byrom Sr. Byrom was convicted on grounds that she hired her son’s friend Joey Gillis to kill her husband. Byrom, who was abused by her husband for years, pleaded not guilty to the crime. Her son, Edward Byrom Jr., wrote multiple confession letters in which he explicitly admitted to killing his father, but the jury was forbidden from reading them.
“As I sat on my bed, tears of rage flowing, remembering my childhood my anger kept building and building, and I went to my car, got the 9mm, and walked to his room, peeked in, and he was asleep,” he wrote in one of the letters. “I walked about 2 steps in the door, and screamed, and shut my eyes, when I heard him move, I started firing.”
Byrom Jr. was initially on trial for murdering his father. During the trial, prosecutors made a deal with Byrom in which they would reduce his sentence if he agreed to testify in court that his mother was involved in the murder plot. Byrom agreed to the deal, even though he has since confessed that the narrative he testified to was a lie.
During a questioning, prosecutors warned Michelle Byrom that if she called out her son for lying on the stand, it would “go really badly on [her] son.” She agreed to admit that she knew about the conspiracy and pleaded with prosecutors not to let her son “take the rap.”
After she was placed on trial, Michelle Byrom’s defense council failed to inform the jury about her mental illness, her history of abuse from both her husband and father, or any other mitigating circumstances. Edward Byrom Jr.’s confessional letters were barred from being included as evidence in the case, and Michelle Byrom was convicted of murder.
In a recent Mississippi State Court ruling, which declined in a 5-3 vote to overturn her death sentence, Justice Jess H. Dickinson heavily criticized Byrom’s legal counsel.
“I have attempted to conjure up in my imagination a more egregious case of ineffective assistance of counsel during the sentencing phase of a capital case,” he wrote. “I cannot.”
Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver E. Diaz has spoke out against Byrom’s sentence as well. He has been a staunch anti-capital-punishment advocate ever since he discovered he sentenced an innocent man to death in 2008.
“Innocent men can be, and have been, sentenced to die for crimes they did not commit … Just as a cockroach scurrying across a kitchen floor at night invariably proves the presence of thousands unseen, these cases leave little room for doubt that innocent men, at unknown and terrible moments in our history, have gone unexonerated and been sent baselessly to their deaths.
“There’s no way justice was done in this case," Diaz said of Byrom’s sentence. "If an execution is allowed to proceed, we all are complicit in it in Mississippi."