Tyrone Gilliam Case: A Death Penalty Activist Executed

Tyrone Delano Gilliam is a convicted murderer who was executed in Maryland on November 16, 1998. Gilliam was ultimately convicted of kidnapping and murdering Christine J. Doerfler, 21 on December 2, 1988.

The Crime

On the evening of December 2, 1988, Gilliam was using drugs and drinking with Tony Drummond and Kelvin Drummond. The three guys stole Doerfler’s car as she was exiting her vehicle when in a parking lot. They also took the three dollars she had on her person but forced her to go to the closest ATM and withdraw more money. During their drive to the ATM, they decided to change their plans. This is when they pulled over in a secluded area. Gilliam then shot Doerfler point-blank in the head with his sawed-off shotgun. The three guys were arrested just three days after their successful attempt at robbing a local convenience store. This is when the police found the sawed-off shotgun in Gilliam’s vehicle. Later Kelvin Drummond confessed that the shooter in the crime was Tyrone Gilliam. This is when Tyrone Gilliam decided to confess that he was the guilty one.

Tyrone Gilliam Case

Gilliam decided it was best to have his trial done by a judge rather than have it in front of the jury. The judge presiding over Gilliam’s case was John Fader. John Fader is a part of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. Judge John Fader found Gilliam guilty of first-degree murder, along with robbery using a dangerous weapon, and kidnapping.

Then on October 31, 1989, Gilliam was ultimately given the death penalty for the murder of Christine Doerfler.

Tony Drummond had a separate trial and he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. While his brother Kelvin Drummond plead guilty and testified against Tyrone Gilliam. However, in Kelvin’s case since he made a deal with the prosecutor, he was able to get a life sentence, but with the possibility of parole.

Is Maryland Death Row Inmate Not Guilty?

Tyrone Gilliam was the voice that convinced thousands of people to become activists against the death penalty across the United States. Yet Gilliam faces an execution date by the state of Maryland during the calendar week of November 16, 1998.

When the New Abolitionists went to the press, activists from all over the East Coast was preparing for one of the largest mobilizations of death penalty opponents that Maryland has ever had to endure. The New Abolitionists were expected to travel out to Baltimore on November 7, so they can march on the Maryland Correctional Adjustment to demand clemency in Tyrone Gilliam’s name.

Gilliam was convicted and given the death penalty for the killing of Christine Doerfler. However, Gilliam did not get a fair trial. The prosecution team withheld facts that they were mandated to give Gilliam’s defense team. For instance, the confession that Gilliam did, was when he was under the influence of PCP and Gilliam had massive head injuries from a car wreck.

The arresting officer that arrested Gilliam stated that they did not know or remember where or who he was when they took him into custody.

While the prosecution also withheld other evidence that supposed to have access to. For instance, the defense did not have access to one of the codefendants that cut a deal with the prosecutors in exchange for testifying against Gilliam.

As of current both of Gilliam’s codefendants that are not sitting on death row are stating that Gilliam was not the one who pulled the trigger, nor did he ever handle the gun that killed the victim.

Despite all the evidence, Tyrone was not given a fair trial even with the state of Maryland’s clean history of racist sentencing patterns when it came to capital cases. The state of Maryland fully prepared to execute Gilliam anyhow.

Tyrone was one of the founders of the well-known event called “Live from Death Row.” The other founder was Kenny Collins one of his fellow death-row inmates. Collins was one of the leading spokespeople against the class-biased nature and racists behavior when it came to the death penalty.

People from Chicago to Oakland to Boston who had the chance to speak directly with Gilliam were moved by his willpower to prevent his death. Gilliam was courageously talking to audiences he would never be able to see. Gilliam was ready to answer any comment or question that may have come up from the audience as well.

Gilliam used every chance he got to the leader of the fight against the death penalty. Many people hearing Gilliam, a passionate, yet sincere man on death row breaks their heart.

Then less than a year later, the case of Karla Faye Tucker helped regain the national debate about the death penalty. This caused many people to rethink if they truly support it or not. The opposition against the death penalty keeps growing as time continues.

While Gilliam’s case is a typical case that little to no press time, that changed when he started working on the campaign. Since then, large amounts of people were disgusted by the state of Maryland to execute Tyrone Gilliam.

Since Gilliam is an activist, he made the issue of opposing the death penalty a personal one for thousands of people who heard is speeches throughout the United States. Gilliam was truly able to help reinvigorate the fight against the death penalty to a different generation of activists.

That is why Gilliam uses his own personal experiences to paint the picture of misuse of the death penalty by the state’s prosecutors. All because they want to advance in their careers, but at the expense of defendants who most of the time does not require the death penalty.

The Appeals

Gilliam’s first direct appeal to the Maryland Court of Appeals was officially rejected in 1990. Then the United States Supreme Court denied hearing out Gilliam’s case the following year in 1991.

This led Gilliam to file a petition for post-conviction relief in the Baltimore County Circuit Court. The Baltimore County Circuit Court denied his petition for post-conviction relief. That is when Gilliam appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court once again, they were also denied in 1993 and 1994. After that attempt, Gilliam went on to file yet another post-conviction relief, which was again denied.

This is when Gilliam decided to petition for a habeas corpus relief with the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Then in November 1996, the court ruled the death-sentenced should be annulled due to the ineffective assistance of counsel. But then the state of Maryland filed Rule 59(e), which is to either amend or alter the judgment placed from the courts.

In April of 1997, the court reversed the original statement and denied Gilliam’s habeas petition. Gillian had no choice but to try and appeal the districts courts verdict in January of 1998. Then on October 5, 1998, the United States Supreme Court denied hearing Gilliam’s case. That same day, Judge Fader signed the death warrant, which would fully go into effect starting November 16, 1998.

Tyrone X. Gilliam Executed

Unfortunately, Tyrone Gilliam was executed by lethal injection on November 16, 1998, at the Maryland Penitentiary during the late-night hours. Gilliam would be the first out of 6 people across the United States to be executed in that week alone.

Before they administered the lethal injection, Gilliam stated: “Allah, forgive them for what they do.” Gilliam even turned to the witnesses and said, “I love you.” However, Gilliam’s final words were “Allah Akbar” which translated is “God is great.”

Outside of the Maryland Penitentiary, there were over 200 death penalty protesters. Many of these protesters were holding candles, singing songs that were in support of Gilliam. The protesters were chanting “They say death row; we say hell no.”

Earlier on November 16 both Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening and the Supreme Court rejected the 11-hour petitions to spare Gilliam from the fate of being executed.

Gilliam’s case ultimately attracted national attention when Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader issued a plea for mercy to Governor Glendening stating that Gilliam’s conversion to Islam has let him see the mistakes in his ways. In 1994, Gilliam joined the Nation of Islam. This is when he started going by names such as Minister As-siid Ben Maryam and Tyrone X. Gilliam.

Ultimately, Gilliam marked the third inmate to be executed in the state of Maryland after almost 33 years of hiatus.

However, the ultimate reason why Governor Glendening denied the petition for clemency was that the facts and evidence showed that Gilliam was the one who pulled the trigger on Doerfler.

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