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Talk of the Town - Death penalty

November 15, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Sometime next week, unless Gov. Parris Glendening grants clemency, Maryland will execute Tyrone Gilliam by lethal injection for killing Christine Doerfler of Baltimore County during a 1988 robbery.

If a random poll of Tri-State area residents taken Saturday is any indication, Maryland is doing the right thing by taking Gilliam's life.

"If the guy killed somebody, then do what the law says. Take his life," said Kenny Stoner, 53, of Hagerstown.

Charles Van Metre, 64, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., concurred. "If the crime warrants it, go for it," he said.

West Virginia has no death penalty.

A couple of Pennsylvanians - Russell Daley Jr., 44, of Waynesboro, and Lillianne Eyer, 37, of Chambersburg - went to the Bible to support their opinions.

"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," they said.

"That's the way I was brought up," Daley said. "Some of these people are getting too many free rides."

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"I agree with the death penalty, absolutely," Eyer said. "They get off too easily."

On Oct. 12, a Franklin County, Pa., jury sentenced Albert Ezron Reid to death after his trial for the shooting deaths of his ex-wife, Carla Reid, 36, and her daughter, Deidra Moore, 14, while they slept.

The death penalty has rarely been used in the Tri-State region, according to corrections officials. The last person executed from the seven-county area was Ralph E. Hawk, who died in Pennsylvania's electric chair in 1938.

Theodore Hicks was shopping at Valley Mall on Saturday. He said the death penalty is warranted in some cases. "I believe it's a deterrent," he said.

Roland Bergman, 61, of Shepherdstown, also believes, like Hicks, that the death penalty is appropriate in particularly brutal crimes.

Lottie Tassone, 24, of Martinsburg, W.Va., follows the same line of thinking. She said whether a person gets the ultimate penalty or not depends on how brutal the crime is and if children are the victims. "You know, stuff like that," she said.

In Gilliam's case, he and two brothers abducted Doerfler as she arrived at her sister's home in Baltimore County on Dec. 2, 1988. They forced her to drive to an ATM machine, but they got no money. She was shot in the back of her head with a sawed-off shotgun.

Gilliam's co-defendants fingered him as the trigger man at his trial. Both are serving life sentences. Both have since said Gilliam did not pull the trigger, although neither brother admitted to shooting Doerfler, according to court records.

Gilliam's attorney claims the state will execute an innocent man if they follow through with the execution. A growing number of death penalty opponents have taken up his cause.

Laura Barger, 45, of Williamsport, said she finds herself in that camp.

"I'm always afraid that they'll put someone to death, then find out later that he was innocent," she said.

"It makes us no better than the criminal we're killing," said Dan Stoner, 16, of Hagerstown.

Elizabeth Becker, 40, another Valley Mall shopper, said the death penalty is wrong. "I don't think we have the right to make that choice," she said.

Several respondents said they favor the death penalty in cases where defendants are incorrigible.

"I think some people are beyond help," said Judy Jones, 54, of Shepherdstown. "It troubles me that we spend thousands of dollars to keep them and we spend so little on little old ladies."

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