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September 20, 2012

Gilliam Trial Ends in Hung Jury

Case to be retried at another date

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble/Staff Writer

The trial of Lisa Gilliam, charged in the death of her husband, London attorney Larry Gilliam in January 2011, ended in a hung jury around 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The jury could not reach a verdict. That decision came in the third day of the trial, held in Laurel Circuit Court.

“We’ll retry the case at another time,” said Special Circuit Judge Robert McGinnis, who released the jury afterwards. After three days of opening statements, watching testimony from witnesses, closing statements, and working on a decision which did not come, the jury immediately left the courtroom.

Outside the courtroom, Gilliam’s defense team reacted to the verdict minutes later, saying they would start all over again.

“The client’s story won’t change. She’s innocent. I was disappointed that she wasn’t acquitted. To say we’re disappointed is an understatement. … The story’s not going to change since day one. … We have it on tape,” said defense attorney Robert Norfleet.

His cohort, defense attorney Scott Foster, agreed.

“We’ll go after new evidence. We’ll start over again, and pretty much start fresh. … I don’t think there will be a new change of venue motion. I think they’ll have it here in Laurel Circuit Court,” noted Foster.

The prosecuting attorney team of Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Harold Dyche left immediately after the trial, and could not be interviewed by the news media.

The hung jury decision came over two hours after the jury returned from a recess, after they finished hearing closing statements from both the prosecution and the defense.

At around 4:42 p.m., the jury returned and Judge McGinnis asked if they wanted to hear an audio tape which came from a “body mic” microphone that was on London Police Officer Shannon Morgan when he got the call to Larry Gilliam’s law office, where the shooting took place. A jury member agreed, and the six-minute tape was played.

The jury was to hear a second tape which contained an hour-long interview with London Police Detective Allen Harris, Detective Phelps of the London Police, and Lisa Gilliam. That tape was recorded at police headquarters on the afternoon of the shooting, Jan. 7, 2011. But before hearing that tape, the jury decided to discuss it, and took a recess at 4:49 p.m.

Seven minutes later, the jury returned and decided “they didn’t want to hear the interview tape, period.” They did, however want to see the gun used in the shooting. Another recess was taken at 5 p.m.

At 5:56 p.m., the jury returned to the courtroom.

“The jury cannot come to an unanimous decision,” announced Judge McGinnis, and they went into another recess three minutes later.

At around 6:58 p.m., the jury returned with their decision.

Closing statements came around 1:45 in the afternoon. The defense went first, followed by the prosecution.

In his closing statement, Foster played on the jury’s emotions to convince them for a not guilty verdict.

“One word summed up this trial. It was absolution. … They could not come to peace with the notion that Larry would take his life. … The reality was divorce and alimony. Overall, he owed $3,200 a month. … He was behind on his taxes. $150,000 in liens. $515,000 in mortgage in loans. He owed over $53,000 in escrow accounts. Not his money. His own clients. Done. It’s not only wrong, it’s theft. … Bankruptcy. The fact, he was gonna file it. He was planning to file. … It was that lifestyle slipping away. … Lisa. This straw broke the camel’s back. … This is where the trial comes down to. Less about Larry Gilliam, and more about police work,” Foster told the jury.

Later, he continued his closing statement.

“The police would not believe Larry would kill himself. The commonwealth wants you to believe that 911 call was contrived and thought up. … You can hear her doing CPR. You can hear her say, ‘Larry! Larry! Larry!’ You can hear dispatch saying, ‘Ma’am. Ma’am. Ma’am…’ It’s on the tape. … I’m nearly blistered to say that the single piece of evidence, who held that gun, vanished. It was destroyed. There was DNA evidence. … In this case, evidence would have freed Lisa Gilliam. The only response you get is, ‘It’s not my job.’ ...

“They accused her of murder, and she stood there with dignity. … Lisa’s story never changed. … You’ve seen the evidence. Or the lack of evidence. … That’s why Lisa Gilliam is innocent,” said Foster as he finished.

For the prosecution’s closing statement, Steele used the information they accumulated on the case to convince the jury for a guilty verdict.

“That gun was placed there for a reason. To kill Larry Gilliam. You’ve heard a lot of testimony in the last two-and-a-half days. … They want you to believe this man’s last thought process in life is, ‘I want to make sure my ex-wife gets paid.’ … This was his sixth wife. If this was a carousel at the fair, he would have been around, and around, and around. He was a frequent flier in divorce court. … Larry was a big spender. Bought a vacation with cash. Cash, cash, cash. Money was not what got him to this point. He got it together. Got all the paperwork together. Went to Doug Benge’s officer and paid him. Is this a man who’s losing it?” Steele asked.

He continued the second half of his closing statement.

“They want you to believe that these officers concocted this up. These officers don’t get paid more for their convictions. Or less. … There’s no evidence of CPR on him. On his nose, on his face. She told Greg Reams, ‘Black, very small gun.’ This is the gun in the desk drawer. Her version is changing. It’s always changing. There’s no record of Larry Gilliam committing suicide, except her statement, which constantly changes. … It’s human nature to lie if you’re in trouble. Whether you’re 4 years old, or an adult woman. … Larry was in a good mood, and moving forward. He did not quit. She stopped him from going forward. She shot and killed Larry Gilliam in his law office that day. The evidence is in her statement. We ask that you return a verdict of murder. Thank you,” Steele said, as the closing statements ended before 3 p.m.

Day three began with prosecution witnesses finishing up their testimony. Five defense witnesses were called to the stand, including Ryan Morrow, a Somerset attorney specializing in trust and estate work; Ryan Hartsock, who knew Larry Gilliam for 2-3 months; and Steve Spurlock, of Pikeville, a full-time minister and part-time private investigator who formerly worked with the Kentucky State Police; Coy Tyler Pierce of Laurel County Dispatch, who was the dispatcher on the day of the shooting was called, and during his testimony the defense played the audio tape that was recorded by dispatch on the day of the shooting.

Their last witness was Dr. George Nichols, a physician and forensic pathologist, who retired as Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Kentucky, after serving from 1977-1997.

During his testimony, Nichols, who was hired by the defense to work on Gilliam’s death investigation, told the jury he visited Gilliam’s law office and asked, “Where’s the furniture? Where’s the stuff?”

“The autopsy is the easiest thing to do. The hardest thing to do is to investigate the crime scene. We have an empty space. The easy thing was done, the autopsy. The only way we could figure out ‘Who done what?’ was to process the scene. There’s no trace evidence that goes from the gun to the hand. The evidence at this point does not tell me who did it,” Nichols said.

When asked by Foster if the crime scene was processed as it should have been,” Nichols replied, “No. Lock up the scene and call someone who can do evidence recovery. We have KSP, Lexington, Metro Louisville. … Ask for help.”

Before the defense witnesses began, it was announced that Lisa Gilliam would not testify.

“It’s my decision,” she told Judge McGinniss.

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