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Death-penalty foes try to save Gilliam

Bulletin:As Workers World newspaper goes to press, we have learned that Tyrone X Gilliam was executed by the state of Maryland minutes after 10 p.m. on Nov. 17. Demonstrators protested late into the night, vowing to continue their fight in remembrance of Gilliam.

By Sharon Black

On Nov. 16, Maryland Gov. Paris Glendening rejected pleas for clemency for death-row prisoner Tyrone X Gilliam. The state could put Gilliam to death at any minute. The countdown for execution began Nov. 17 at midnight.

Community opposition has mounted in the weeks before the scheduled execution. Many groups are taking part. A round-the-clock vigil is led by members of the Jonah House and other death penalty opponents as the execution countdown proceeds.

On Nov. 16 State Sen. Clarence Mitchell IV and community activists from Unity for Action rallied at the downtown Lexington Market. Bill Goodin from Unity for Action exclaimed, "This execution is about racism!"

He was referring to the fact that of Maryland's 14 death-row prisoners, 12 are African American. Ten of those 12 African American prisoners were convicted of killing a white person.

A governor-appointed task force in Maryland found that racist bias on Maryland's death row "remains a matter of legitimate concern."

Tyrone X Gilliam is accused of the murder of Christine Doefler during a carjacking that took place in Baltimore County. Gilliam is African American; Doefler was white.

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the Maryland Coalition Against State Executions have pointed out inconsistencies in the case against Gilliam that show doubt about his guilt.

These groups point out: "Gilliam never had adequate representation at the time of his arrest. He was interrogated by police following a high-speed car chase that ended in a serious crash. Tyrone Gilliam suffered massive head injuries.

"Originally Gilliam's co-defendants cut a deal to avoid the death penalty, but [they] later signed an affidavit that their testimony was false."

Demonstrators have marched and rallied at the Super Maximum Security Unit at Fallsway and Madison Streets. On Nov. 14, members of the Nation of Islam led a march through Baltimore's Eastside community to the prison. Protesters rallied in front of the prison.

Speakers from the NOI, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, All-Peoples Congress, Unity for Action, the International Socialist Organization and the Maryland Coalition Against State Executions denounced the execution as racist and against the poor.

Andre Powell, All-Peoples Congress organizer, spoke to Workers World newspaper after learning that Tyrone X Gilliam's execution is only minutes away. He said: "We refuse to be intimidated by the state's show of barbarity and brutality. They want to demoralize us, but we refuse.

"We will continue to fight racism from death row to the statehouse. The only answer to this brother's death is to continue our efforts to mobilize the community and fight back."

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