The Mississippi Supreme Court Order in Byrom v. Mississippi is available in Adobe .pdf format.
AP reports, "Mississippi Supreme Court orders new trial for death row inmate Michelle Byrom," via GulfLive.com. Here's an extended excerpt from the beginning:
A death row inmate who prosecutors say recruited her son in a plot to kill her husband will get a new trial, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Monday.
Michelle Byrom, now 57, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2000 in Tishomingo County in the killing of her husband, Edward "Eddie" Byrom Sr., and for recruiting her son in the plot. Byrom Sr. was fatally shot on June 4, 1999, at the couple's home in Iuka.
Byrom's attorneys say they have new evidence in the case, and Byrom now argues her son committed the slaying. She argues in court briefs that her son confessed in conversations with a forensic psychologist. She argues the statements were discussed with the trial judge but were never revealed to Michelle Byrom or her attorneys before her trial. She also says the psychologist was not allowed to testify about them.
In the high court's two-page order, Justice Josiah D. Coleman said the original trial judge, Circuit Judge Thomas J. Gardner, will not preside over Byrom's re-trial. Coleman said the circuit court in Tishomingo County will assign another judge to the case.
The high court did not elaborate on how it reached its decision. Coleman said, however, the high court's decision was "extraordinary and extremely rare in the context of a petition for leave to pursue post-conviction relief."
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports, "Miss. death row inmate Michelle Byrom's capital murder conviction reversed," by Jerry Mitchell.
Justice Josiah Dennis Coleman called the high court’s decision “extraordinary and extremely rare in the context of a petition for leave.”
The decision to reverse the case came after The Clarion-Ledger and others drew attention to the fact Byrom’s son, Edward Jr., had repeatedly confessed to killing his father, Edward Sr., but jurors had never heard that.
Instead, jurors heard Junior testify at Byrom’s 2000 capital murder trial that she hired “hit man” Joey Gillis for $10,000 to $15,000 to kill Edward Sr.
"Mississippi woman on death row for 14 years gets new trial," is by Emily Le Coz of Reuters, via Global Post.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood had asked the state Supreme Court to set her execution for last Thursday night, but the court denied his motion a few hours before the scheduled time.
Byrom says she suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by her husband and was hospitalized with pneumonia the day he died in what prosecutors alleged was a murder-for-hire scheme to collect insurance money.
Defense attorneys say new evidence indicates that Byrom's son was responsible for the murder.
The Guardian reports, "Mississippi orders new trial for death row inmate Michelle Byrom," by Jon Swaine.
Byrom’s son, Edward Jr, was the star witness for the prosecution at her trial. He said that he was part of the plot and that his friend Joey Gillis fired the shot. He and Gillis were convicted of lesser charges relating to the killing and were jailed. They have both since been released.
Yet Edward Jr also confessed before the trial that he had carried out the killing alone, following years of abuse from his father, according to a state-appointed psychologist. He reiterated this in two letters to his mother in prison that have been published by her lawyers.
“Mom, I’m gonna tell you right now who killed Dad, cause I’m sick and tired of all the lies,” Edward Jr said in one letter. “I did. And it wasn’t for the money, it wasn’t for all the abuse to me, it was because I can’t kill myself.”
The psychologist, Dr Criss Lott, has now said in a sworn affidavit that he told the judge in Byrom’s trial about Edward Jr’s confession. And Byrom’s former lawyers – who gave her what one Mississippi supreme court justice later described as the most “egregious” representation that he had ever known – decided to not to submit the confession letters as evidence in her trial.
"Miss. Supreme Court Reverses Michelle Byrom's Conviction, Delays Second Execution," is by Donna Ladd for the Jackson Free Press.
The news followed an intense 13 days of media attention since Jackson Free Press writer Ronni Mott published an article on March 19 detailing the many problems with the conviction of the abused Tishomingo County woman for paying a third person to kill her husband, Edward Byrom Sr., in 1999. Much of the evidence never got to the jury, including from several confession letters written by Byrom's son, Edward Jr., saying that he killed his father.
Byrom, 56, had been on death row, and at one point faced a possible execution date of March 27, a date Attorney General Jim Hood had requested.
In addition, a newspaper in north Mississippi reported that the prosecutor said that the hitman Byrom supposedly paid did not actually kill her husband.
Writing on behalf of the court in a two-page en banc order, Josiah Dennis Coleman granted her Motion for Leave to File Successive Petition for Post-Conviction relief. "Michelle Byrom's conviction for capital murder should be reversed and the case remanded to the circuit court for a new trial." Coleman made a point of saying that Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Gardner, who presided over Byrom's first trial in November 2000, could not oversee her new trial.
Coleman also acknowledged that this order is unusual for the court. "The relief afforded herein is extraordinary and extremely rare in the context of a petition for leave to pursue post conviction relief, and we limit the relief we today grant to the facts of the above-styled case," he wrote.
Tom Freeland, an Oxford lawyer who blogs at NMissCommenter, wrote today that the reversal of the conviction is very unusual: "This is after the case has been tried, on direct appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, on certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, on post conviction to the Mississippi Supreme Court, certiorari again, and then the federal district court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Next time someone says that a death sentence is fine because of all the judges who looked at it, remember Michelle Byrom."
Earlier coverage of Michelle Byrom's case begins at the link.