N.C. Supreme Court: Attorney Must Divulge Info About Eric Miller Case
Posted May 7, 2004
RALEIGH, N.C. — The state Supreme Court upheld Friday a lower court ruling that forced a lawyer to divulge what a now-dead client told him about the unsolved murder of Eric Miller.
Gammon will now be forced to tell investigators what his client Derril Willard knew about the arsenic poisoning of Eric Miller.
"I think Derril Willard would turn over in his grave if he thought this information would be provided to law enforcement," Gammon said.
Gammon has tirelessly fought to keep the information private, saying any exception to the rule could weaken the privilege's protection. The state's high court on Friday said the ruling wasn't intended to break routine confidential conversations between lawyers and their clients.
"We add as a cautionary note that this very narrow exception to the attorney-client privilege should be appropriately limited both as to its scope and method of disclosure," the court ruled.
With the case getting old and Willard no longer alive, it is the break investigators think they need.
"The information we are seeking is anything that will lead us to the truth and a resolution to this case," said Lt. Chris Morgan of the Raleigh Police Department.
A lower court ruled Gammon must tell investigators about conversations he had with his client. Those talks may implicate a third party, but no one will say if that third party is Miller's former wife, Ann. Ann Miller has been the focus of the police's investigation.
Eric Miller, 30, died Dec. 2, 2000, of arsenic poisoning. Slightly more than a month later, Willard killed himself.
Police have said Willard was having an affair with Miller's wife, Ann. The 37-year-old Willard refused to talk with investigators after Miller's death and met with Gammon several times before killing himself.
No one has been charged in Miller's death.
Gammon had been ordered to provide a sealed affidavit outlining his conversations with Willard so a judge could determine whether any of it was relevant and whether releasing details would violate attorney-client privilege.
Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ruled in October that nothing in it would incriminate Willard in Miller's death. But he said Willard gave Gammon information regarding a third party, unnamed in the ruling, which was not privileged.
District Attorney Colon Willoughby is eager to hear anything Willard knew about the case.
"I hope it will be enough to solve the case and if there is someone who can be prosecuted, it will be efficient enough to help us prosecute the person responsible for Eric Miller's death," he said.
Gammon said it is unlikely he will appeal the court's decision.
"To the extent that the information might help solve the case, I applaud Mr. Willoughby and I hope the best for the Miller family," he said.
Willoughby said he talked to Derril Willard's wife, Yvette, on Friday. He said she was pleased with the court's ruling because she has always thought her husband was not responsible and she believes the court's ruling enforces that.
Gammon has 20 days to decide on an appeal. A Wake County judge would decide when and how Gammon should turn over information.
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