It looks like there's been an astounding miscarriage of justice in the state of Mississippi, but the people with the power to stop the madness just can't see it. Unless the state's supreme court rules otherwise, this Thursday, 57-year-old Michelle Byrom will be executed for a murder her son has confessed to -- four times, three of those times in writing.
Ms. Byrom was convicted of plotting to murder her husband, Edward Byrom Sr. The man was shot in 1999 while Ms. Byrom was recovering from double pneumonia in the hospital. At the time, their son, Edward Byrom Jr., claimed his mother planned the murder in order to claim her husband's life insurance. Michelle Byrom could become the first female to be executed in the state of Mississippi since 1994.
The saga of Edward Byrom Sr.'s murder and the subsequent trial is long and complicated. At first, Edward Byrom Jr. pinned the murder on his mother. Eventually, he was implicated as well. According to prosecutors, Edward Jr. colluded with his mother to hire a friend, Joey Gillis, to shoot his father. Edward Jr. confessed to killing his father during a statement to a court-appointed psychologist and in three letters smuggled to his mother in jail. But never in court.
Ms. Byrom's attorneys bungled this evidence. They withheld the letters from the hearing because they wanted to introduce them when Edward Jr. took the stand; the prosecution then blocked the letters from the hearing. Michelle was convicted and sentenced to death. Appeals to her sentence have been denied.
Edward took a plea bargain, testifying against his mother in exchange for a lighter sentence. He is free today and is studying religion. But is he really free? He may be responsible for the murder of his father and soon the death of his mother as well. What kind of life could he possibly have now?
This is one of the reasons why the death penalty troubles so many of us. If we really believed everyone could get a fair trial, that would be one thing. But people make mistakes. They get lost in technicalities. They make poor judgments. When someone is wrongfully executed for a crime they didn't commit, aren't we all guilty for allowing the death penalty to exist, still?
How do you think someone could justify allowing his mother to pay for a crime he committed?
Image via Mississippi Department of Corrections