Court delays Mississippi's first execution of female inmate in 70 years

Thu Mar 27, 2014 5:26pm EDT
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By Emily Le Coz

JACKSON, Mississippi (Reuters) - A Mississippi woman convicted of murdering her husband was granted at least a brief reprieve on Thursday but could still become the first female prisoner executed in the state in 70 years.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood had asked the state Supreme Court to set the execution of Michelle Byrom, 57, for Thursday night for the fatal shooting of her husband, Edward Byrom Sr. in 1999.

But the court denied Hood's motion to carry out the execution, giving her attorneys hope the court will take up their motion to seek permission to file additional appeals.

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 hope the court will consider evidence that Byrom's son was responsible for the murder.

"It appears they are looking deeply into the issues raised," said Jackson defense attorney David Voisin, who is consulting with Byrom's legal team on her case. "We are cautiously optimistic at this point."

It is relatively rare for women to be executed in the United States. In February, a Texas woman became the 14th female inmate put to death in the country since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, compared to about 1,400 men executed in that time.

Byrom is one of two women out of 50 inmates on death row in Mississippi, according to the state's Department of Corrections.   Continued...