Questions of justice cloud issue of Gilliam execution

November 15, 1998|By GREGORY KANE

I WAS TOO HIGH on PCP to remember," Tyrone Gilliam said in response to the question of who, indeed, had shot Christine Doerfler in the back of the head with a sawed-off shotgun the night of Dec. 2, 1988.

Gilliam is to be executed this week for that murder. His cohorts that night, brothers Kelvin and Delano Drummond, are serving life sentences for the murder. Kelvin Drummond testified that Gilliam was the shooter. Gilliam confessed twice but now says his PCP-induced state impaired his memory.

"My two co-defendants are the ones who retain memory of what happened the night of Dec. 2," Gilliam told about 100 Johns Hopkins University students Wednesday night. Only three men can save Gilliam's life. One is Gov. Parris Glendening, who can commute Gilliam's sentence to life imprisonment without parole. The other two are the Drummond brothers, one of whom says Gilliam was the shooter while the other denies it.

No one knows whether Glendening will be swayed by Delano Drummond's affidavit, which says Gilliam was not the shooter. But readers may find it instructive nonetheless.

"I have know Tyrone Gilliam since 1987," Delano Drummond wrote in a March 1994 affidavit notarized by a Harford County notary public, "when we first met on the streets in Baltimore. From the very first moment, Tyrone has always been a passive, quiet guy who desperately wanted to fit into the street scene, but never really could. The very first day I met him, Tyrone was walking down the street when I called to him to come over to me. Tyrone had never met me, he didn't even know who I was but, just like that, Tyrone stopped immediately and came right over. I was amazed that I had this kind of influence over a stranger. I could make Tyrone do anything that I wanted him to do, things that he would never do by himself. I know that Tyrone would not be on death row today if he had not met me."

You can read into that what you will. The passage certainly doesn't speak well of Gilliam, and readers might get some ideas about what happened the night Christine Doerfler was murdered that will certainly not help him.

But it's Delano Drummond's references to his brother Kelvin "Kevin" Delano that cast the most doubt on Gilliam's guilt. Delano Drummond first described how the trio had gotten high on PCP. Gilliam, he said, became "paranoid and delusional." Delano Drummond said he felt like a soldier "at war with the world." Kelvin's reaction, as his brother recalls, was no better.

"Even before the shooting Kevin was a complete mess. You could never trust Kevin. He just didn't know what the truth was. Kevin would say whatever he thought would help him get over. He would lie about anything to get something he wanted or get out of a jam. Kevin lied a lot. He lied the night he was arrested and has been lying ever since.

"Kevin lied to the State police and then lied to the State to get his deal. If you put Kevin in a room, threatened him with prison or the death penalty, Kevin would tell you whatever he thought you wanted to hear. Kevin is lying about what happened on the night of Dec. 2, 1988 and he knows it. If the State really knew what happened that night, they would never have given Kevin his deal."

That reads like an implication that Kelvin Drummond, not Tyrone Gilliam, shot Christine Doerfler. His brother's entire testimony against Gilliam, Delano Drummond says, contained no truth at all. Delano Drummond is saying, in essence, that his brother is a prevaricating polecat. You figure a guy should know a thing like that about his brother. Before we rush Gilliam into the executioner's chamber, we should consider that this was no fine upstanding citizen testifying against him. It was a guy who, according to his own brother, was "hard and ruthless."

Make no mistake about it. The way Christine Doerfler died means somebody should get the death penalty. My problem in the Gilliam case is twofold. If the state executes him this week, there will always be that doubt in my mind about whether we executed the guy who pulled the trigger. And justice in its purest form says all three of these guys should die, not just Gilliam.

They were all involved in the crime. They were all on PCP. How reliable is the testimony of any one of them? For all we know, they may have drawn lots to see who killed Doerfler. In fact, given their condition, for all they know, they may have drawn lots.

All we've gotten from Delano Drummond is who didn't kill Christine Doerfler. That's not what hundreds of thousands of Marylanders and Doerfler's surviving loved ones want to know. We want to know who did shoot Christine Doerfler. If Delano Drummond knows that information and sincerely wants to save Gilliam's life, he has some serious talking to do between now and the execution.

Pub Date: 11/15/98

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