Local News

Judge: Lawyer Must Break Attorney-Client Privilege In Arsenic Poisoning Case

Posted March 14, 2002 9:22 a.m. EST

— A judge ruled Thursday that attorney Richard Gammon must provide the court with information -- in a sealed affidavit -- about his conversations with Derril Willard, one of the key players in the case of poisoned UNC researcher Eric Miller.

Investigators say Miller's widow, Ann, had a relationship with Willard. After authorities searched Willard's house, Willard killed himself in his garage.

Willard's widow, Yvette, filed an affidavit waiving the attorney-client privilege her husband had with Gammon. Gammon's attorneys claim because Willard did not specifically give his wife the right to waive the privilege in his will, her waiver is not legal.

"I just wanted to do what I could to try to bring some closure to this. If there is something in the information that Derril gave to his attorney that can help bring the person who killed Eric to justice," Yvette said. "I want it over with."

During the two-hour court hearing, Judge Donald Stephens posed some questions to the lawyers in the courtroom.

"If Derril Willard told Mr. Gammons that he acted alone in causing the death of Eric Miller and that no one else participated in the commission of any crime and an innocent person was charged and put on trial for that homicide, are you telling me that the proper administration of justice would not permit the release of this information to protect an innocent person?" Stephens asked the defense.

Doris and Verus Miller, Eric Miller's parents, traveled to Wake County from Indiana for the court hearing. After the hearing, they said they were pleased with the results.

"This gives us some encouragement, and we will take it one step at a time," Verus Miller said.

Earlier in the day, the Millers

discussed the case

with WRAL's Len Besthoff.

"We hope everybody involved and everybody that the police contacts will cooperate so we can find these answers," Doris Miller said. "Eric was such a loving person. I don't think you'll see anyone who would say anything against him. He had so much to give to mankind."

"We're going to keep living with it. The void will never go away, but hopefully, we'll have some answers and justice," Verus Miller said.

He also quoted Potter Stewart, a former U.S. Supreme Court Justice, "Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have the right to do and what is the right thing to do," he said.

Gammons has until 5 p.m. March 15 to give his affidavit to the court. After that, the court will review the affidavit and decide whether to give the information to the district attorney and the sheriff's office.

The decision made by Stephens can be appealed to the N.C. Court of Appeals or the N.C. Supreme Court, and Gammons said he does plan to appeal it.

If Gammons decides not to submit an affidavit to the court, he could be forced to go to jail for contempt.

Related Links:

  • March 7, 2002:

    Eric Miller's Parents Discuss Case, Thursday's Court Hearing

  • March 6, 2002:

    Eric Miller's Parents Speak Out, Ask Attorney To Reveal Information About Case

  • Statement From Eric Miller's Parents (Released March 5, 2002)

  • February 26, 2002:

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

  • December 3, 2001:

    One Year Later, No Answers In Death Of UNC Researcher

  • May 22, 2001:

    N.C. Author Interested In Arsenic Poisoning Case

  • May 14, 2001:

    Autopsy Report: Researcher Died Of Arsenic Poisoning

  • Jan. 31, 2001:

    More Details Emerge About Widow Of Poisoned Raleigh Researcher

  • Jan 25, 2001:

    Millers Were 'Typical Family,' Neighbor Says

  • Jan 25, 2001:

    Investigators Wonder How Many Times Miller Was Poisoned

  • Jan 22, 2001:

    Arsenic Probe Takes Police to Another Home; Man Found Dead

  • Jan. 22, 2001:

    Mystery, Sadness of Arsenic Poisoning Case Deepens

  • Dec. 13, 2000:

    Raleigh Police Find More Evidence In Poisoning Of UNC Researcher

  • Dec. 3, 2000:

    Raleigh Police Suspect Arsenic Poisoning Responsible For Death Of Doctor