September 21, 2012

HUNG JURY: Gilliam faces new trial

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The wife of the late London attorney Larry Gilliam will face a new trial after a Laurel jury failed to reach unanimous agreement on a verdict.

Referred to as a “hung jury,” Special Circuit Judge Robert McGinnis excused the jury around 7 p.m. Wednesday after the jury foreman announced, for a second time, the three-man, nine-woman jury could not agree on whether or not Lisa Gilliam shot and killed her husband, Larry Gilliam, on Jan. 7, 2011.

The fourth-floor courtroom was like a revolving door as the jury deliberated the facts of the case, starting shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday. An hour and a half later, the jury came back, requesting a recording from one of the officers responding to the scene be replayed. They also asked to see the gun used in the incident that left Larry Gilliam dead of a gunshot wound to the chest.

The jury went back to deliberate at 5 p.m., but return with their announcement they could not come to an agreement on the verdict, and were ordered by McGinnis to resume deliberations. An hour later, the jury returned to the courtroom and announced that a unanimous decision could not be reached.

Defense attorneys Scott Foster and Robert Norfleet said they were disappointed with the failure of a verdict but they would continue to review the evidence and prepare for a new trial.

“Our client is happy the public got to hear her case,” Foster said. “We are sure that in the next trial she will be acquitted. Her story was consistent throughout, within the minutes after to the hours and days later. This is a new stumbling block but we will keep working.”

“She (Gilliam) has maintained she is innocent from the beginning,” Norfleet added. “To say we are not disappointed is an understatement, but we heard the questions the jurors had about the evidence and we will work to present the case so the next 12 jurors can reach a verdict of not guilty. I really wish there was an ‘innocent’ verdict to this case rather than not guilty because Lisa has said all along she did not kill her husband.”

Reconstructing the scene was difficult

A key element in the case was the angle of the gunshot that killed Larry Gilliam. The removal of some of the office furniture the day after Larry Gilliam’s death complicated the reconstruction efforts by experts. Ronnie Freels, a 33-year retiree from the Kentucky State Police who now consults with forensic cases, testified he brought in a mannequin to reconstruct the scene and do a trajectory analysis of the bullet’s path. Freels’ analysis showed Larry Gilliam “had to be bent over for the bullet path” to have penetrated the office’s closet door and the bullet lodged in the closet wall. This reconstruction was done on the assumption the closet door behind Lisa Gilliam’s receptionists’ desk was closed. Upon cross-examination by Norfleet, Freels admitted, “If the closet door wasn’t closed, all that changes.”

Financial woes could have been factor

The defense witnesses focused on Larry Gilliam’s personal and financial problems in the weeks prior to his death. According to the defense attorneys’ calculations, Gilliam was more than $500,000 in debt at the time of his death.

Pulaski County attorney Ryan Morrow testified he was appointed over Gilliam’s accounts after his death, including contacting current clients and making sure upcoming court dates had representation on the clients’ behalf. Morrow was the sole person, according to defense attorneys, who had access to Gilliam’s escrow accounts. Escrow accounts are overseen by attorneys when clients receive settlements on their cases from insurance and other agencies. According to Morrow’s testimony, with the “75 to 100” cases in Gilliam’s escrow accounts, approximately $57,998 should have been available. However, Morrow said his review revealed only $4,202 in the accounts. This action could have not only sent Larry Gilliam to jail, it could also have resulted in him being disbarred to practice law, costing him his source of income as well.

Larry Gilliam had also returned a packet for a potential bankruptcy case, owed $1,000 to his former wife’s attorney and had to pay $2,300 in alimony to his former wife, Coleen, by the end of the day on Jan. 7. In addition, he and Lisa had been arguing because Lisa had learned her husband was allegedly seeing Coleen again and she threatened to leave him.

Prosecution upholds murder claim

The Commonwealth countered that defense, stating Gilliam had been juggling monies in the escrow account for several years and that he was depositing money back into those accounts.

“Larry could make money,” Jackie Steele, prosecuting attorney, said. “He’d put $40,000 back into those accounts and he’d been doing this for years. Money meant nothing to him. He could always make more money and had a knack for doing it. The defense wants you to believe he was upset over the threat that Lisa was going to leave him. She was his sixth wife. Larry was a frequent flyer through divorce court.”

Steele also outlined Gilliam’s plans for future events — plans to visit a longtime friend in Hazard the following week, plans for a bankruptcy action, promises to a Barbourville client, a $1,500 payment on the afternoon of his death to London attorney Douglas Benge for an appeal to his alimony payments to former wife, Coleen, and a non-refundable cash payment for a Bahama getaway in mid-February. The argument between the Gilliams on Jan. 7 over financial and personal issues was the motive, Steele said, that resulted in Lisa Gilliam shooting her husband that afternoon.

“She was obviously mad,” Steele said. “She cleared off Larry’s desk. It has been stated that Larry was in a good mood. He was pushing forward with his life. She stopped him from moving forward.”

Steele said on Thursday morning he appreciated the service of the jurors in the case.

“The jury had a tough decision to make. They had several questions and we tried to answer those for them,” Steele said. “They deliberated for four hours and couldn’t come to a decision.”

Lisa Gilliam left the courtroom, free on the same bond she posted after her arrest in March 2011 until a new trial can be scheduled. McGinnis set the case for another pretrial conference on Oct. 19.