Death sentence overturned in slaying Defense prepared witnesses inadequately, judge says

November 21, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

A federal judge in Baltimore overturned yesterday the death sentence of convicted killer Tyrone Delano Gilliam Jr., citing errors his attorney made during his sentencing hearing.

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis sent Gilliam's case back to Baltimore County Circuit Court for resentencing.

Gilliam was convicted in the Dec. 2, 1988, shotgun slaying of 21-year-old Christine J. Doerfler, whom he kidnapped and robbed of $3 before shooting her once in the back of the head.

In a 54-page opinion, Garbis denied several claims made on behalf of Gilliam, including one that physical evidence was insufficient to support a first-degree murder conviction.

But Garbis found merit in Gilliam's argument that during his murder trial his lawyer, Donald Danemon, failed to adequately prepare expert witnesses to present mitigating circumstances at the sentencing hearing. Danemon initially contacted psychiatric experts recommended by the state Public Defender's Death Penalty Unit but failed to provide follow-up information. Thus, the experts could not form an opinion of Gilliam that they could offer during the sentencing.

Instead, the attorney relied solely on the testimony of "a psychologist who had administered a battery of tests to develop Gilliam's] psychological 'profile,' " Garbis wrote.

Garbis found fault with Danemon for allowing Gilliam to be interviewed by the prosecution's psychiatric expert without the defense attorney present.

"Even applying a heavy measure of deference to the 'judgment' made by trial counsel, counsel's consent and subsequent failure to attend the interviews conducted by the state's psychiatric expert fall below the level of reasonably competent representation guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment," Garbis wrote.

Danemon said yesterday that he tried to get psychiatric experts to testify on behalf of his client but that those who interviewed Gilliam would have given testimony detrimental to him.

"We tried to bring in a psychiatrist, one of the finest psychiatrists in the state of Maryland. But after he evaluated my client he found my client was a cold-blooded murderer. I couldn't use him," Danemon said. "As a matter of fact, we tried to get a second psychiatrist, and she bailed out on me," he said.

"If they ruled that I am wrong, if I should have been there when my client was interviewed by the [prosecution's psychiatrist], so be it," he said.

Danemon said he tried to obtain a sentence of life without parole for his client. "I tried my best, and I lost," he said.

Pub Date: 11/21/96

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