High court refuses appeal of man condemned to die Balto. County judge sets execution for Gilliam

October 06, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County judge signed a death warrant yesterday for condemned killer Tyrone Gilliam, setting his execution for the week of Nov. 16.

The warrant, signed by Circuit Judge John F. Fader, who originally sentenced Gilliam to death, came hours after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of Gilliam's case.

Gilliam, convicted of killing a 21-year-old Baltimore woman with a sawed-off shotgun, has few avenues left for appeal other than asking Gov. Parris N. Glendening for clemency. Gilliam would be the third man executed in Maryland in this decade.

Yesterday, Gilliam's attorney in the appellate process, Jerome Nickerson, said that he planned to pursue several routes to save his client from death by lethal injection. He declined to specify what those were.

"Mr. Gilliam intends to press his meritorious claims to the governor and to the appellate courts," Nickerson said.

Gilliam does not dispute participating in the crime, but denies killing the woman, Christine Doerfler.

His family issued a statement yesterday apologizing to the Doerfler family -- but also criticizing the death penalty.

"The death penalty in Maryland is a political killing machine. It is legalized lynching of blacks, poor, innocent and undeserving people," said John Gilliam-Price, Gilliam's brother-in-law. "Our family once again apologizes for the loss of Christine. Killing was wrong then if done by an individual and it is still wrong if it is done by the state."

Gilliam is black; Doerfler was white. All but three of the 15 men awaiting execution in Maryland are black. All but four of their 19 victims were white.

The question before the U.S. Supreme Court was whether Gilliam's conviction should stand based on Nickerson's argument that the attorney who defended Gilliam at trial had a conflict of interest in the case.

John Cox, an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore County, said at least 10 state and federal courts -- including the U.S. Supreme Court -- have upheld Gilliam's conviction on various grounds.

L "Its obviously been a long time coming," Cox said yesterday.

The U.S. Supreme Court also refused yesterday to hear the appeal of Maryland death-row inmate John Booth. Booth was sentenced to death in 1984 for the fatal stabbing of an elderly couple in West Baltimore.

Gilliam was convicted at age 22 in June 1989 of murdering the hardware store accountant during a robbery that netted $3. At his trial, a companion testified that the night of Dec. 1, 1988 -- two days before the slaying -- Gilliam had vowed to kill a woman.

Christine Doerfler had driven to visit her sister at a Baltimore County townhouse when Gilliam and two others jumped in her car and kidnapped her. They forced her to drive to a bank machine because she had so little money. Gilliam, according to court testimony, shot Doerfler because he did not want her to tell of his crimes. Gilliam's two accomplices received prison sentences.

nTC Gilliam confessed to the killing while being interrogated by state police.

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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