BALTIMORE – Death penalty opponents are already looking beyond Monday night’s execution of convicted murderer Tyrone Delano Gilliam, drafting a plan to generate support to spare the life of Maryland’s next death row inmate likely to be executed, Kenneth Collins.
“Next time I come here, I want it to be because I’m watching Kenny Collins walk out the door,” said Damian A. Smith, a member of the D.C. chapter of The Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Smith joined about 200 protesters Monday night outside the Maryland Penitentiary as Gilliam was being executed.
Michael Stark, the Maryland coordinator of The Campaign to End the Death Penalty, is meeting Wednesday with Collins’ lawyer to work on a defense strategy. Thursday evening, members of the group will meet to talk about next steps, Stark said.
Gary Bair, head of criminal appeals in the Maryland attorney general’s office, said the state will continue to work toward Collins’ execution. An execution date has not yet been set; Collins has an appeal of his sentence pending in federal court.
Collins was convicted May 2, 1988, in Somerset County Circuit Court of murdering and robbing a Maryland National Bank executive. Wayne Leander Breeden, 34, was beaten with a gun butt, then shot twice in the back as he staggered away from a Parkville automated teller machine on Dec. 7, 1986, according to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Breeden was carrying $80.
Stark said there are “surprising similarities” between Collins’ and Gilliam’s cases.
As in Gilliam’s case, a co-defendant in the crime testified against Collins in a plea bargain agreement giving the co- defendant a prison term rather than death.
Like Gilliam and eight of the other 14 Maryland death row inmates, Collins is a black man convicted of killing a white.
Gilliam was convicted on June 1989 of fatally shooting Christine Doerfler, 21, in a Baltimore County kidnapping and robbery that provided Gilliam and two accomplices with $3.
Gilliam’s lawyer, Jerome H. Nickerson Jr., argued that Gilliam was not the trigger man and that his original court- appointed lawyer was inadequate. Gilliam, however, confessed twice to the murder, and one of his co-defendants testified Gilliam was the trigger man.
Gilliam was executed by lethal injection Monday night. He was the third man executed in Maryland since 1961.
Strapped to the gurney, clutching his blue Nation of Islam hat in his left hand, Gilliam asked God to forgive those who would execute him. In his final words, he said, “I love you” to his spiritual advisor and his lawyer. He also said “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is great,” in Arabic.
Monday night was the culmination of a three-week flurry of court filings by Nickerson in a failed attempt to get local, state and federal courts to stay the execution and hold hearings on Gilliam’s sentence.
Nickerson petitioned Glendening Friday to grant Gilliam life in prison without parole.
“The facts of this case are clear,” Glendening said in refusing the request Monday. “Mr. Gilliam shot and murdered Miss Doerfler in cold blood.”