Gilliam appeals to governor for mercy With execution looming, lawyer says co-defendant killed woman in 1988

November 15, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Condemned killer Tyrone X. Gilliam asked Gov. Parris N. Glendening to spare his life yesterday, contending for the first time that Christine J. Doerfler was slain by one of the two men with him on the night of the crime.

Accompanying the plea for clemency, Gilliam's attorney Jerome Nickerson released a sworn statement from the state's principal witness at the trial recanting his earlier testimony that Gilliam had vowed to kill a woman. In the affidavit, Kelvin Drummond says that Gilliam did not shoot Doerfler. The affidavit does not say who did.

Nickerson also said yesterday that all the evidence in the case points to Gilliam's co-defendant, Delano "Tony" Drummond, as the killer. Drummond, who is the brother of the prosecution's star witness, is serving a sentence of life without parole for his role in the 1988 murder.

The 11th-hour petition -- Gilliam is scheduled to die by lethal injection this week -- muddies the case for Glendening, who is reviewing the plea. With Kelvin Drummond's new affidavit, all three participants in the abduction and subsequent killing say Gilliam is not the trigger man.

Gilliam, who confessed twice, has maintained for years that he did not fire the shotgun that killed the 21-year-old hardware store accountant. An affidavit from Tony Drummond -- signed four years ago -- also states that Gilliam did not fire the shotgun.

"This is about whether the right man is going to be executed," Nickerson said yesterday. "Get me a courtroom and I'll show you who did this crime."

Prosecutors challenged the new affidavit -- signed Friday -- and Nickerson's allegations that another man committed the crime. Neither of the Drummonds has anything to lose by putting out these statements, they said.

'It's not credible'

"This is not unusual to have an 11th-hour 'I'll get my buddy off,' " said Baltimore County Deputy State's Attorney Sue A. Schenning. "It's not credible. You just can't take this stuff back. A fabrication 10 years later doesn't discard what was said at the time of the offense."

"Tyrone Gilliam admitted [to police] he was the shooter," Schenning said. "Tyrone Gilliam repeatedly admitted to his attorney, to his doctors his lawyers hired for him, that he was the shooter."

Tony Drummond's lawyer did not return telephone calls last night.

Glendening has the power to commute Gilliam's sentence and halt the execution pending an inquiry by his legal staff into issues in the case. Glendening cannot order a new trial, said his legal counsel Andrea Leahy-Fuchek.

"He will take the petition and review it very carefully," Leahy-Fuchek said last night. "He will not make any comments on the petition until he has completed his review."

The credibility of Tony Drummond's affidavit and Kelvin Drummond's change of heart was called into question by a federal judge in 1996. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis had been presented with Tony Drummond's affidavit and was told by Nickerson that Kelvin Drummond had recanted his original testimony. Kelvin Drummond never submitted a sworn affidavit.

"The Court notes that the affidavit and recantation come after the Drummonds have been convicted and jeopardy has attached. The Court also notes that neither brother states with specificity who did shoot Ms. Doerfler," according to accounts of the opinion in prosecutors' court filings.

Nickerson maintains that Kelvin Drummond has put his future at risk by supplying the new affidavit. Because Drummond says he lied during earlier testimony, his plea-bargain could be invalidated. The plea-bargain offers the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors acknowledge that they could argue to void the agreement. But they say they will not because Kelvin Drummond told the truth the first time. "His agreement was to testify truthfully in Tyrone's and Tony's trials. He did that. This is a lie," Schenning said yesterday.

Prosecutors will be looking into whether they can file a perjury charge -- which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence -- against Kelvin Drummond because the affidavit is false, Schenning said. The perjury law may only cover sworn statements in judicial proceedings; the petition for clemency is an executive proceeding, she said.

The flurry of finger-pointing and testimony recantation comes amid Gilliam's ever-changing statements about the night of the crime. He has confessed to the crime at least twice. He told police that he shot Doerfler by accident. Then he wrote to his attorney before he was sentenced: "I've cold-bloodedly killed someone. I had no reason for it, and it's hard for me to deal with the fact that it's all over. I've caused a lot of hurt, just by pulling a trigger."

He also told doctors who examined him that he shot Doerfler, court records show.

After his sentencing, he began arguing he was not the killer. Then, on Thursday, he said he could not remember events the night of the crime because he was high on PCP and cocaine.

Pub Date: 11/15/98

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