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September 19, 2012

Lisa Gilliam Murder Trial - Day 1

Witness tells court, ‘There was no DNA sample’

CORBIN — Story by Jeff Noble/Staff Writer

A witness for the prosecution in the first day of the Lisa Gilliam murder trial told the court and jury Monday that the gun used in the murder of Lisa’s husband, Larry Gilliam, did not have a crucial ingredient in the case — a DNA sample.

In front of Special Circuit Judge Robert McGinnis in Laurel Circuit Court and both prosecuting and defense attorneys, Paul Dorman, a fingerprint analyst with the Kentucky State Police, said he examined the gun used in the crime on Jan. 18, 2001.

When examined by Laurel Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele about the gun, Dorman told Steele, “There wasn’t enough amounts of  ‘rich detail’ on the gun to exclude anybody.”

Dorman then was cross-examined by one of Lisa Gilliam’s assistant defense attorneys, Scott Foster, of Somerset.

When asked more about the gun and the examination, Dorman said, “There was no DNA sample. Detective Alvin Harris of the London Police Department sent us the gun. I was asked to fingerprint the gun. We go by what they ask for. We don’t harvest the DNA. It falls on the agency that submits the evidence. I don’t try to second guess the people on what they do,”

“Was there anything remarkable to you about this gun?” asked Foster.

Dorman replied, “No, sir.”

“The evidence used in that gun could be gone?” Foster asked back.

“That’s a possibility,” said Dorman.

Dorman was one of eight witnesses called on by the prosecution in the trial, held in London.

Lisa Dorman is charged with the death of her husband of 44 days — attorney Larry Gilliam —  in his law office in London just before 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 7, 2011. She was indicted on March of that year, after an investigation by the London Police Department. She surrendered to police four days later, and was taken to the Laurel Detention Center.

In June 2011, Lisa Gilliam entered a not guilty plea in Laurel County Circuit Court. A request by her to move her trial from Laurel County was overruled by McGinnis in November.

The murder trial was set to begin July 23, but was rescheduled because one of the prosecution’s witnesses, a laboratory ballistics examiner, had a baby the week before the trial was to start. It was then rescheduled for Monday.

Another prosecution witness called upon to testify was David Mills, a Barbourville attorney who saw Larry Gilliam was on the day of his death. Mills represented Gilliam in a divorce case with Gilliam’s ex-wife Colleen. Mills told the court, “We talked about his divorce. He was dressed for court, and was in an upbeat mood. He didn’t seem to be out of character.”

Defense attorney Robert Norfleet, of Somerset, asked Mills about Gilliam paying $650 maintenance a month until the final hearing, as part of the divorce decree. Minutes later he asked Mills, “How much did the judge order Larry to pay in the final hearing?”

Mills told him, “The specific figure I don’t recall.”

Later, Norfleet said, “The judge said he had to go from paying $650 a month to $2,300 a month.”

“Yes,” said Mills.

Norfleet also questioned Mills if Gilliam was $550,000 in debt, had $76,000 in student loan debts, and a $150,000 federal tax lien declared by the court against Larry and Colleen Gilliam in the final divorce decree.

“Who was it levied against?” Norfleet asked Mills.

“I assume they filed jointly,” said Mills.

Prosecuting attorney Steele said to Mills, “They owed money?”

Mills replied, “They owed money.”

Before taking a break at 2:58 p.m., the jury heard from London attorney Doug Benge, a prosecution witness.

Benge told Steele he was asked by Gilliam to represent him on an appeal on the divorce case with Colleen.

“I had called him that Thursday before his death, and told him I had to have some payment. On January 7th, I spoke to him, He said, ‘Doug I have a civil pre-trial conference. As soon as I leave Barbourville, I’ll make a beeline straight to his office.’ Later I got a call from his assistant saying he’d been shot. … He was extremely apologetic about not paying me.”

When asked about Gilliam’s lifestyle by Foster, Benge said after being shown a picture, “He had two Corvettes. I don’t recognize the motorcycles in the picture.”

“Mr. Gilliam did have a lot of toys, is that correct?” asked Foster.

“That’s correct,” replied Benge.

“He prided himself on being a black belt karate expert?”

“Yes he did.”

“Did he discuss bankruptcy with you?”

“No he didn’t.”

“He certainly wasn’t happy to be paying maintenance?”

“No one ever is.”

After the break, Steele examined another prosecution witness, London attorney Catie Gilliam, who is Larry Gilliam’s first cousin. She told the jury she was going to represent him in a bankruptcy case, and had talked to him about a week-and-a-half before he died.

“I do recall he asking my opinion about opening a practice in Somerset. He was living over there, and I told him it sounded like a good idea. He also wanted to get the bankruptcy over with to get on with his life. He had filed for bankruptcy before.”

Foster cross-examined her, asking, “Was he buried next to his father?”

“No. He was buried in London,” said Catie Gilliam, which was followed by a long pause.

Foster later asked her that Larry Gilliam was over a half-million dollars in debt, and if she knew that.

She answered, “I do not recall. … Mr. Gilliam did not want to be buried next to his dad at the family cemetery in Cumberland (in Harlan County). … I was going to pay for a separate funeral.”

When prosecution witness Dr. Kristen Rolf came to the stand, the forensic pathologist for the state Medical Examiner’s Office said she performed an autopsy on Gilliam on Jan. 8, 2011. She said to Steele the bullet entered his left chest. The bullet path traveled the left-hand side of his body, and went through the heart, and caused a bruise to his left lung. It exited the body on the diaphragm and spleen, below the ribs. She concluded the gun was pressed against the chest, and a drug test was performed, which turned out negative.

When cross-examined by Foster, Dr. Rolf said the wound from the gun was a close contact wound, and that “most close contact wounds end up being suicides.”

When Steele asked about who handled the gun during the time of the shooting, Dr. Rolf replied, “I can’t tell you who’s holding the gun, because I’m not there.”

Other witnesses for the prosecution were Dr. Gregory James Davis, a professor of pathology at the University of Kentucky, and a part-time state medical examiner, John Stansberry, who works for a London travel agency, and Shannon Hardwick, of Somerset, a convicted felon Gilliam represented four to five times in court.

The trial began at 9 a.m. with opening statements from both sides.

Prosecutors Steele and Assistant Laurel Commonwealth Attorney Harold Dyche told the gallery that Larry Gilliam had financial troubles, but he saw a lawyer and filed for bankruptcy, as well as a divorce appeal from his previous wife. They pointed out Gilliam was planning to go on vacation to Harlan the next week because he was from there.

They noted the statements Lisa Gilliam made didn’t add up, but that “some things never changed” — that Larry Gilliam was shot and killed on Jan. 7, 2011, that the gun was found in Lisa’s desk drawer, and that there were only two people in the office that day. In addition, they noted that Larry had paid cash for the trip the week before he died, and that we wasn’t going to commit suicide.

“The devil is in the detail,” said Steele several times.

Defense attorney Norfleet painted a different picture. Saying, “Larry Gilliam was broke, alone and going to jail,” he said Gilliam had filed for bankruptcy and dropped off the papers, and dropped off the papers that morning. That same day, Norflleet said Gilliam had to come up with $2,300 to pay alimony to his former wife, Colleen, and if he didn’t pay it that day, they would file contempt of court charges in Gilliam, and he would go to jail.

Norfleet also said Gilliam was in his sixth marriage, and it wasn’t going well. The two had argued that morning, then Larry went to court, and later argued with Lisa that afternoon. He supposedly pushed her back against the wall, which was common, so she went back to her desk and back to work, thinking he would calm down if she did so. Norfleet said Larry got mad, and there was money all over his desk. What the defense called a “suicide note” was a note to Lisa, and that Larry threw the note down by the money.

“He was setting the stage, here’s a picture, here’s the note and he’s paying her back for a gift she bought him, and there’s a pile of bills ($2,300) he was to pay Colleen. The human mind can only handle so much,” noted Norfleet.

The first day of the trial ended at 4:55 p.m.

Day 2 of the trial will resume at 9 a.m. today (Tuesday). The prosecution is scheduled to finish presenting their witnesses, which should be done by midday. Then, the defense team will present their witnesses. The trial is expected to last four days.

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