Md. official withdraws from clemency review Group rallies to oppose execution of Gilliam

November 08, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

A legal aide to Gov. Parris N. Glendening withdrew from a review of a possible clemency appeal for condemned killer Tyrone X. Gilliam yesterday just hours before 200 people marched to the Supermax prison to oppose the execution scheduled for the week of Nov. 16.

Mary Ellen Barbera said her decision was based on criticism from Gilliam's attorney that her role as a former deputy assistant attorney general -- in charge of criminal appeals -- should disqualify her from a review because she is biased.

"In order to not distract from the issues, I have decided not to participate in any way in the review of this particular matter," Barbera said in a statement released yesterday. Barbera's office collects information to give to the governor for such reviews.

Accepting her withdrawal, Glendening said, "I understand and respect Ms. Barbera's decision and have the fullest confidence in her abilities."

The governor has the authority to grant commutation to Gilliam, who was convicted in the 1988 murder of 21-year-old Christine Doerfler in Baltimore County. Gilliam shot Doerfler in the back of the head with a sawed-off shotgun after a carjacking that yielded $3.

After 10 years of appeals, Gilliam's death warrant was signed Oct 5. Gilliam admitted participating in the carjacking and robbery before Doerfler's death, but not killing her.

Meanwhile at the Supermax, Gilliam attorney Jerome H. Nickerson Jr. called Barbera's withdrawal a step in the right direction. Nickerson, who had said he would not file a clemency petition if Barbera were allowed to aid in its review, said he has not yet decided to file the 4,000-page petition.

Nickerson made his comments after he spoke to the protesters, who marched down Madison Street chanting, "They say death. We say no. Take Tyrone off death row."

People from as far as New York and Boston showed up with "The Death Penalty is Racist" signs and "Abolish the Death Penalty" banners to lend their support to Gilliam and his family. Speakers ranging from Catholic priests to Nation of Islam leaders called on the state to abolish the practice.

"We drove all the way from New York City to tell Glendening that Maryland has the most racist death row in the country," Johanna Fernandez shouted to the crowd. "We are here to say, 'No more.' "

Said Mary Gilliam, 51, Tyrone Gilliam's mother, "It is absolutely wonderful that all these people showed up. All I can do now is pray. I voted and my family voted for Mr. Glendening. We are hoping now that he knows what is the human thing to do."

As for Barbera's announced withdrawal, Nickerson said, "That would be the first step that the governor is treating the case for clemency seriously. If he is really serious, he will stay the execution to conduct a review."

Pub Date: 11/08/98

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