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Lawyer In Arsenic Poisoning Case: Attorney-Client Privilege Extends Through Death

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The lawyer in the case of a Raleigh man who was poisoned to death is being asked to break attorney-client privilege, but he said that privilege extends through death.

Richard Gammon represented Darril Willard, who police claim had some kind of relationship with Eric Miller's wife, Ann. Miller died from arsenic poisoning on Dec. 2, 2000. Willard committed suicide in his garage in January 2001 after police turned their investigation toward him and searched his house.

In a petition submitted by Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, he wants Judge Donald Stephens to force Gammon to disclose what his client had told him, thereby breaking attorney-client privilege.

"Since my client is deceased, then the district attorney thinks that he is on some legal ground to try to compel me to say what has been told to me," Gammon said.

Gammon said the attorney-client privilege holds even after death.

"The United States Supreme Court says that attorney-client privilege survives death. As least for my business right now, what the U.S. Supreme Court says is what I would go by, that it indeed survives death," he said.

Willoughby said Yvette Willard, the deceased's widow, told investigators Gammon told her husband that he could face an attempted murder charge.

The petition also contained a statement by Yvette Willard, who wants Gammon to release any information he may have. Yvette Willard is serving as the executor of her late husband's estate.

"I think the issue probably is whether or not the executor has the power to waive that privilege," Willoughby said.

Gammon has not yet decided what to do, but he is seeking counsel.

Stephens will hold a hearing on the issue in two weeks.