By Jean Cole
A former Madison woman once convicted of capital murder in the 2001 fatal overdose of her husband in Limestone County has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the crime and sentenced to time already served in prison — 12 years.
District Attorney Brian Jones, who had planned to retry Kathy Diane Birge, 59, for capital murder in the 2001 death of Cecil Birge, offered the deal to Birge today in Limestone County Circuit Court.
Birge, who was tearful as deputies escorted her from the courtroom in cuffs, shackles and her striped prison uniform, said she was relieved.
She will again seek parole, in about a year, on the forgery and theft convictions, related to the 2001 crime, that have kept her in prison.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Jim Ayers Jr. after the hearing that the death of a key prosecution witness, the purging of physical evidence at the Indiana lab where Cecil's body was examined and his family's wish that his body not be re-exhumed were factors in trying to settle the case.
Circuit Judge Bob Baker, as per the agreement, sentenced Birge to 145 months — or 12 years — which she has already served in prison for forgery and theft related to the manslaughter.
She was convicted in 2003 of giving Cecil a lethal dose of Soma on May 5, 2001, at their Copperfield Subdivision home in Limestone County. However, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction in 2007 due to a chain-of-evidence issue related to pathology evidence.
Still, Birge remained jailed these past years because she had pleaded guilty to forgery on the first day of her capital murder trial and was also convicted of theft, said former District Attorney Kristi Valls, who originally tried Birge.
Jones, who took office in January 2011, told The News Courier as late as Tuesday he and his staff were trying to find time to travel to Indiana, where Cecil is buried, to determine whether evidence could still be gathered to retry the case.