Federal appeals panel upholds Byrom conviction

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — A Mississippi woman sentenced to death for masterminding a plot to kill her husband has lost an appeal before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel of the New Orleans court on Friday denied Michelle Byrom’s arguments that her attorneys failed to provide her an adequate defense.

A federal judge in Mississippi denied Byrom’s appeal in 2011 but allowed her to file a petition to the 5th Circuit.

Byrom, now 56, was convicted in 2000 of killing her husband of 20 years and recruiting her son in the plot.

Edward Byrom Sr., an electrician, was shot to death June 4, 1999, at the couple’s home in Iuka.

In a rare move at her 2000 trial, Michelle Byrom asked Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner, instead of the jury, to decide whether she should serve life in prison or be put to death. Gardner sentenced her to death.

Prosecutors said Byrom killed her husband for money. Defense attorneys argued she had been physically abused by her husband.

Byrom attacked her attorney’s failure to put on any witnesses during the trial or sentencing and failed to investigate her background, which may have supported her innocence or helped her avoid the death penalty. Byrom also alleged that her attorneys never explained to her the possible consequences of waiving her right to having a jury determine her sentence.

The 5th Circuit panel, in rejecting Byrom’s issues, said that despite some unusual defense strategy, it found nothing her lawyers did prevented Byrom from getting a fair trial.