Mississippi death row inmate Michelle Byrom’s conviction was overturned today by the State Supreme Court, and the case has been remanded to the circuit court for a new trial.
Michelle Byrom had been convicted of capital murder in 2000, for arranging to have her allegedly abusive husband, Edward Byrom Sr, murdered by a hitman. Prosecutors claimed that Byrom masterminded a murder for hire plot, with the intention of collecting upwards of $350,000 from her husband’s estate and life insurance policy. When Byrom Sr was shot to death in his home in Iuka MS, his wife was in the hospital, recovering from double pneumonia.
It was later discovered that their son, Edward Jr, may have actually been the one who pulled the trigger. He admitted as much, both in jailhouse letters and to a court-appointed psychologist, citing a lifetime of physical abuse from his father. In one of two letters to his mother published by Michelle Byrom’s attorney’s he stated:
“Mom, I’m gonna tell you right now who killed Dad, cause I’m sick and tired of all the lies. I did. And it wasn’t for all the money, it wasn’t for all the abuse to me. It was because I can’t kill myself.”
Later, Byrom Jr would recant the confession, stating that the killing had been the work of his friend Joey Gillis. While the letters were known about during the initial trial, they were never presented as evidence by Byrom’s former attorney.
At the trial of Michelle Byrom, her own son was the star witness for the prosecution. Byrom Jr testified before the state that his mother had hired Joey Gillis to perform the hit for $15,000. Both Edward Byrom Jr and Joey Gillis were convicted on lesser charges relating to the killing and have served their time. At this present moment, they are both free men.
Byrom was scheduled to be executed last week, via lethal injection, but after a last ditch motion for additional post conviction relief filed by Byrom’s legal defense team, she’s been granted another chance to plead her case.
David Calder, Michelle Byrom’s attorney, released the following statement today:
“We are very grateful that the Mississippi Supreme Court has granted Michelle Byrom’s request for relief from her death sentence. This was a team effort on the part of the attorney’s currently representing Michelle, and we believe that the court reached a just and fair result under the facts presented in this case.”
Oliver Diaz, the former presiding justice of the State Supreme Court described the court’s opinion as “amazing”, and said “These (last ditch motions for post conviction relief) are almost never granted. Defendants are limited to a single post conviction motion. It is extremely rare to grant and send back for a new trial.”
Additionally, the Supreme Court instructed that a new judge should be assigned to this second trial. Michelle Byrom’s current legal team believe she initally received inadequate council.