Byrom Execution This Week Unlikely | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Byrom Execution This Week Unlikely

Michelle Byrom is asking the court for permission to file another petition for post-conviction relief; the state Supreme Court denied her previous petition for post-conviction.

Michelle Byrom is asking the court for permission to file another petition for post-conviction relief; the state Supreme Court denied her previous petition for post-conviction.

An Innocent Woman? Michelle Byrom vs. Mississippi

Read Ronni Mott's March 19, 2014, story in the JFP that brought international attention to the tragic case of Michelle Byrom.

— With the Mississippi State Supreme Court considering appeals from death-row prisoner Michelle Byrom, it's unlikely that the state could schedule the woman's execution in time for the date Attorney General Jim Hood requested.

Hood had asked the courts to set March 27 as the date the state would put Byrom to death for allegedly orchestrating her husband's murder in 1999. However, state supreme court justices had not made any decisions in Byrom's case as of last Thursday, when the court normally hands down rulings.

Byrom is asking the court for permission to file another petition for post-conviction relief; the state Supreme Court denied her previous petition for post-conviction.

Byrom's husband, Edward Byrom Sr., was killed on June 4, 1999, while Michelle was hospitalized for double pneumonia. Police initially suspected the couple's son, Edward Jr., but Junior accused his mother of conspiring with his friend Joey Gillis in a murder-for-hire plan to reap insurance money.

Junior has since said he fabricated the story under duress and has made a number of statements confessing to being the killer, which jurors in his mother's trial never heard. And despite his alleged confessions, Junior stuck to his original story in court that his mother hired Gillis to commit the murder.

If Mississippi executes Byrom, she will be the first woman the state has put to death in 70 years. In 2006, Michelle appealed to the state Supreme Court, saying that her attorneys were wrong. In a 5-3 decision, the court denied her appeal. Justice Jess H. Dickinson excoriated the attorneys and Judge Gardner in his dissent.

"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," Dickinson wrote. "I cannot."

"[T]he trial judge lacked statutory authority to impose the death penalty in this case. Byrom and the State of Mississippi cannot merely agree for the trial judge to have sentencing authority where the statute does not give the judge such power."

Hood also requested an execution date for Charles Ray Crawford, convicted of the January 1993 kidnapping, rape and murder of a college student named Kristy Ray in Chalybeate.

At the time, Crawford was out on bond and awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and rape in 1991. Crawford had planned to offer an insanity defense, but a psychiatric exam found no mental deficiencies and his trial was set to commence four days after Ray went missing.

Around the same time, court records indicate, Crawford's family discovered a ransom note in the attic of the house where Crawford was living and contacted his attorney because they feared he was planning a kidnapping. Police and Federal Bureau of Investigations investigators questioned Crawford, who they say eventually confessed to the crime and led authorities to Ray's body.

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