/Michelle Byrom, who narrowly escaped execution after 14 years on Mississippi’s death row, is dead at 62

Michelle Byrom, who narrowly escaped execution after 14 years on Mississippi’s death row, is dead at 62

A family friend confirmed that Byrom, who had been in and around hospice and hospital care for the past few months, passed away at home on January 25. She was 62 years old. In 2000, a Tishomingo County jury found Byrom guilty in capital murder. A judge sentenced her to the death penalty. Byrom spent nearly a decade and half in the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, Pearl. After Byrom’s legal team argued for incompetent defense and exonerative evidence that jurors had never seen, Byrom was almost done with her appeals to the state supreme. Oliver Diaz, an ex-state supreme court justice, said that Byrom was a strong woman who could face the challenges she faced. “I am glad that she was able overcome her death row and live the last few years of her life as a free person.” Diaz said: “I believe that the justice system took many great years from her and she had every reason to be bitter about it. She wasn’t.” Photo by Kim Stonecypher Byrom. The case attracted national attention because many people were curious about why the state would execute a mentally ill woman who was abused by her husband, whom she was accused of conspiring with to kill. Despite a wealth of evidence including a confession from her son that supported Byrom’s innocence, this was despite the fact that Byrom had a lot of support. In 1999, she was living in Iuka when authorities arrested her for capital murder in the death of Edward Byrom Sr. Law enforcement stated that Edward Byrom Sr. had been killed in their home with a Luger 9 millimeter pistol from World War II. This family heirloom was theirs. Michelle Byrom, who was being treated for pneumonia at a local hospital after she had been questioned by the county sheriff, stated that she would accept responsibility for the murder. Edward Byrom Jr., her son, testified that Byrom hired Joey Gillis as a hitman. Both Byrom Jr. and Gillis were convicted of lesser crimes related to the crime. They were released from prison in 2009, and 2013. Michelle Byrom was diagnosed by a court-appointed psychologist with depression, alcohol dependence and Munchausen’s Syndrome. He discovered that Michelle Byrom had suffered from emotional, sexual, and physical abuse from her husband. Byrom was found guilty by the jury. Her defense lawyers waived Byrom’s right to a jury to decide her sentence. They also did not present any mitigating evidence at sentencing. The judge sentenced her to death. Although Byrom’s case made it through the appeals process without any problems, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her case in 2014. Public scrutiny increased when Attorney General Jim Hood requested that Byrom’s execution be set for March 27, 2014. The Mississippi Supreme Court refused the request of the attorney general. Kate Royals, Mississippi Today. On March 31, that year, the high-court tossed out the conviction and allowed Byrom to be tried again. Byrom’s legal team provided evidence that jurors did not see letters Byrom Jr. wrote to his mother. In these letters, Byrom Jr. admitted to killing his father after being pushed to the ground and slapped. A separate confession was made by Byrom Jr. to a court appointed psychiatrist. Gillis later stated in an affidavit that Byrom didn’t hire him to murder her husband. Ronni Mott, who was a journalist who raised questions about Byrom’s case at the Jackson Free Press days before, said that the speed at which Byrom’s conviction was vacated by the supreme court “was amazingly fast.” Mott stated that she deduced from court documents that Michelle was not guilty, and that she did not receive a fair trial. This brought attention to the case from national reporters. Byrom maintained a positive outlook on her situation while in prison and showed empathy for others. She was called “Mama Michelle” by guards and prisoners alike. Byrom said that she wanted to be tried again. “I was up to a new trial.” Byrom said that she waited over a year in jail before accepting an Alford plea in 2015. This allowed her to accept the felony charge against her record, but maintained her innocence. Byrom was released from the courthouse after she was sentenced to time served. She was sentenced to 16 years in prison. After her release, Byrom moved from Georgia to Tennessee where she continued to write letters and call friends. After spending some time with her brother, she moved into a transitional home for women outside Nashville. She was reunited with her son. Byrom longed for a home she could call her own. She wanted to be able to relax on the porch and care for her dog. She was still living with her sister at the time of her passing. Kim Stonecypher photo. Byrom dealt with many health issues during her three-and-a half years of freedom. After a heart attack, she spent some time in hospital and rehab. Byrom was afflicted with a variety of conditions, including anemia and fibromyalgia. She said that she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer after she got out from jail. Byrom couldn’t shake the notion that her cancer started while she was in prison, she said to Mississippi Today last year. However, she never received treatment. Byrom didn’t seek compensation from the state for a wrongfully convicted, as the state continued to hold her guilty despite her plea bargain. Kim Stonecypher, Byrom’s friend, said that she had never seen anyone so resourceful. “She made her way in society, and she was just starting out really young.” Byrom was the fourth child of seven, and was born to Betty Dimitro and Michael Dimitro in Yonkers. Later, her mother divorced and remarried. The family moved between Florida and Missouri. Byrom, then 15, left her home and married Edward Byrom Sr. when she was 17. Edward Jr. was their only child. They are survived by her siblings, and her son. Byrom Jr., her son, said that life is a lot like poker. He added, “Sometimes you don’t have the winning hand.”