U.S. judge overturns his order death sentence restored

Murder suspect's lawyer made sufficient effort, Garbis now says

April 11, 1997|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A federal judge who in November vacated the death sentence of convicted killer Tyrone Delano Gilliam Jr. has overturned his own order, again putting the wheels in motion for the execution.

Gilliam was sentenced to death in 1989 by a Baltimore County judge for the murder of Christine J. Doerfler, 21, a hardware store clerk who was kidnapped and shot in the back of the head in a robbery that netted $3.

Judge Marvin J. Garbis said in his November decision that Gilliam's attorney, Donald Daneman, provided inadequate defense work. But he reversed that opinion Wednesday after a Maryland assistant attorney general argued that Daneman made quality efforts to represent a heinous killer.

Gilliam once wrote about himself before his sentencing, "I've cold-bloodedly killed someone I do deserve every bit of death," a passage that Assistant Attorney General Gwynn Kinsey recently quoted to Garbis.

"In this letter, Gilliam acknowledges his cold-blooded killing and in no way suggests the mitigating factors of duress or substantial mental impairment which he now claims Daneman should have more effectively pursued" at a death-sentence hearing, Kinsey wrote to the judge Dec. 4.

Garbis couldn't be reached yesterday. In his opinion, he wrote that he had reconsidered the case since his November ruling and that his conclusions "must be changed." Gilliam, who is being held at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore, would have received a new sentencing hearing if Garbis had not rescinded the order.

Gilliam has argued in recent years that he was the victim of abusive parents and that his attorney should have focused his defense around his troubled past and his mental deficiencies.

Daneman had attempted to obtain the testimony of two psychiatric experts who interviewed Gilliam. But neither had good news for the defense attorney, according to the assistant attorney general, which used the experts as examples of how Daneman tried his best to defend Gilliam.

One of the experts told Daneman that the crime was simply "a cold-blooded execution" committed by a man who was under no duress, the other told him that Gilliam "has a borderline IQ, but so does 85 percent of Baltimore City. He has an explosive personality, a chip on his shoulder, and he is not psychotic," court papers quoted the psychiatrists.

In his 18-page opinion, Garbis concluded that "Even if additional information concerning childhood sexual abuse had been taken into account by the sentencing court," it would not have outweighed "the severity and the aggravating circumstances of the crime."

Gilliam has not exhausted final appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals and to the U.S. Supreme Court. His attorney could not be reached yesterday.

Maryland's last execution occurred May 17, 1994, when John Frederick Thanos was put to death for three murders in 1990.

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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