This Woman May Be Executed Tomorrow — Even Though Someone Else Admitted to the Crime

Mothers often say they would die for their children. This mother just might, for a crime she possibly did not commit. 

If Mississippi's State Supreme Court approves the request from the attorney general, Michelle Byrom, 57, will be put to death by lethal injection on Thursday.

Byrom is on death row for allegedly shooting and killing her abusive husband in 1999. But the case is far from straightforward. It bears a glaring miscarriage of justice, or, in the words of Warren Yoder, executive director of the Public Policy Center of Mississippi, a "perversion of American jurisprudence."

Here is why: Byrom's own son, Edward Byrom Jr., confessed to the murder four times, "in three jailhouse letters smuggled to his mother, and once in a statement given to a court-appointed psychologist," according to CNN. But the jury has never heard Byrom Jr. confess, and the letters were never entered into evidence by his defense attorneys. Byrom Jr. accepted a plea deal, testified against his mother and let her take the hit for the crime.   

Michelle Byrom only admitted guilt when the sheriff asked her if she was going to let her son take the blame. She replied, "No, he's not going to. I wouldn't let him. ... I will take all the responsibility. I'll do it."

Byrom — who is one of only two women on death row in the state — would be the first woman that Mississippi has executed since 1944. In the U.S., as of Jan. 1, 2013, there were 63 women on death row. This constitutes about 2% of the total death row population of 3,125 people. 

On Tuesday, two days before his mother's possible execution, Byron Jr.'s Facebook status read, "Ok, gonna take a fb break for awhile. Trying to dodge everyones opinions. Just remember, without facts, all u have is an opinion. To my friends, later. To the rest, thanks for the motivation."

There will definitely be opinions. The case is complex (for a detailed account read here), and it undoubtedly calls into question the fairness and logic of our judicial process. 


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Laura Dimon

Laura graduated from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 2013. She has been published in the Economist, the Atlantic, and the Daily Beast. www.lauradimon.com / @lauradimon

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