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Mississippi's Michelle Byrom won't be executed Thursday

By Marlena Baldacci, CNN
updated 4:11 PM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
Michelle Byrom was 42 when she hired a killer to murder her husband in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, on June 4, 1999. She was sentenced on November 18, 2000. Women make up fewer than 2% of the inmates sentenced to die on death row in the United States, according to the <a href='http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/case-summaries-current-female-death-row-inmates' target='_blank'>Death Penalty Information Center</a>. Michelle Byrom was 42 when she hired a killer to murder her husband in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, on June 4, 1999. She was sentenced on November 18, 2000. Women make up fewer than 2% of the inmates sentenced to die on death row in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: State's high court denies motion to set execution date for 57-year-old
  • State Supreme Court continues to review Michelle Byrom's post-conviction motion
  • Michelle Byrom was convicted of masterminding her husband's 1999 murder
  • Son has admitted to crime in letters and to psychologist, but not when put on stand

CNN's original series, "Death Row Stories," explores America's capital punishment system each Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Join the conversation about the death penalty at facebook.com/cnn or Twitter @CNNorigSeries using #DeathRowStories.

(CNN) -- The Mississippi Supreme Court has denied the state attorney general's motion to set an execution date for Michelle Byrom, according to an order filed by the court Thursday afternoon.

"Having duly considered the motion and Byrom's response, the court finds that the Motion to Reset Execution Date is not well taken and should be denied," the order reads.

Earlier Thursday, the court said Byrom, convicted of a murder to which her son has confessed multiple times, would not be executed Thursday, as the Mississippi Supreme Court continues to review her post-conviction motion.

Byrom's motion for the court is still pending, and there is no word on when the court's decision on that particular motion will be made, court spokeswoman Beverly Pettigrew Kraft said.

Attorney General Jim Hood had requested the 57-year-old death row inmate be executed "on or before (the date of) March 27," Kraft said. The Mississippi Supreme Court has the final say on execution dates and they haven't yet issued a decision on the attorney general's request.

During Michelle Byrom's original trial, prosecutors said she plotted to kill her husband, Edward Byrom Sr. He was fatally shot in his home in Iuka, Mississippi, in 1999 while Michelle was in the hospital receiving treatment for double pneumonia, but a jury convicted her based on evidence and testimony, saying she was the mastermind.

'The picture was innocent'
'Here I am going to death row'

Byrom Jr. admitted in jailhouse letters that he committed the murder on his own after growing tired of his father's physical and verbal abuse, and a court-appointed psychologist has said that Byrom Jr. gave him a similar story.

On the stand, Byrom Jr. pinned the murder on one of his friends, whom he said his mother hired for $15,000.

Following her attorney's advice, Michelle Byrom waived her right to a jury sentencing, allowing the judge to decide her fate. He sentenced her to death.

Michelle Byrom's attorney has now filed a motion asking the court for additional discovery so the confession to the court-appointed psychologist can be fully explored.

Additionally, attorneys want to depose the prosecutor from her trial, Arch Bullard, regarding his knowledge of Byrom Jr.'s confession to the psychologist.

Bullard has told CNN that he firmly believes Michelle Byrom was the mastermind of the murder-for-hire plot.

According to those familiar with the process, the Supreme Court typically issues opinions at 1:30 p.m. on Thursdays. The nine-member court could issue a decision regarding the Byrom case Thursday, but there is no requirement on the timeline for the decision.

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