Local News

Judge: Defense Attorney Must Give D.A. Info About Eric Miller's Death

Posted October 3, 2003 11:53 a.m. EDT

— A Wake County judge ordered defense attorney Rick Gammon to tell the district attorney some of what he knows about the murder of researcher Eric Miller.

Gammon must tell police what his client said about the "activities and statements of a third party" in Eric Miller's unsolved death nearly three years ago, Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ruled Thursday.

Miller, 30, died Dec. 2, 2000 of arsenic poisoning. Slightly more than a month later, Gammon's client, Derril Willard Jr., 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 committing suicide.

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.

Judge Donald Stephens said Thursday that nothing in the affidavit would incriminate Willard in Miller's death. But he said Willard gave Gammon information regarding a third party, unnamed in the ruling.

"The information regarding activities and statements of a third party are not privileged and are therefore subject to disclosure" to authorities, Stephens ruled.

Yvette Willard, Derril's wife, said she is pleased about the judge's ruling.

"I am pleased with the judge's ruling and very gratified that he did say there was nothing incriminating to Derril," she said. "Yesterday was Derril's mother's birthday and she said that this was the best birthday present she could have gotten."

Gammon has been ordered to give the information to Wake County district attorney Colon Willoughby by Oct. 10. Gammon said Thursday he would appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. A phone call to his attorney, Joseph Zeszotarski of Raleigh, was not immediately returned.

Police Lt. Chris Morgan, who has led the investigation, said he was "very encouraged" by the judge's ruling.

"I think we grow closer to the truth and to justice every day now," Morgan said.

Last month, the state Supreme Court upheld a 2002 ruling by Stephens that ordered Gammon to provide information about those meetings. The judge wanted to read Gammon's affidavit in private and determine whether it is critical enough to give to authorities.

In the ruling, the court said Willard could have implicated another person without implicating himself, and that any such conversation would not be privileged.

Police said that Eric Miller first became ill after a November 2000 bowling outing with several of his wife's co-workers. One of them was Willard, who served Miller a beer that Miller said tasted funny, according to a brief filed with the state Supreme Court.

Police also said they seized an arsenic compound from the lab where Willard and Ann Miller worked.

Ann Miller has since moved to Wilmington, and has refused to talk to the investigators since the day of her husband's death.