Update 09/18/2012 http://articles.philly.com
Lawyers for condemned Philadelphia killer Terrance “Terry” Williams Tuesday afternoon asked the state Board of Pardons to reconsider Williams’ petition for clemency, citing purportedly inaccurate information a prosecutor provided the board at the hearing on Monday.
Though the board voted 3 to 2 for clemency for Williams, 46, who is scheduled for execution on Oct. 3, a unanimous vote was needed for the nonbinding recommendation to be sent to Gov. Corbett.
In a letter to the board, Williams’ lawyers asked for reconsideration because of the way Assistant District Attorney Thomas Dolgenos answered a question from pardons board member Harris Gubernick.
Update 09/18/2012 Board of Pardons rejects killer’s clemency appeal
HARRISBURG — The state Board of Pardons on Monday rejected a bid for clemency from a convicted murderer who is scheduled to become the first person executed by Pennsylvania since 1999.
The case of Terrance Williams has mobilized supporters, who say a history of sexual abuse by several men — including the man whose murder resulted in the death sentence — is reason to stop the execution scheduled for Oct. 3. Separately, a Philadelphia judge has agreed to hear evidence on Thursday about the claims of sexual abuse.
Pennsylvania has not executed someone who contested a death sentence since 1962. After two hours of testimony Monday, three of the five members of the Board of Pardons, including Attorney General Linda Kelly, voted to recommend that Gov. Tom Corbett grant clemency. But a unanimous decision is needed in cases with a sentence of death or life imprisonment, so the two opposing votes, including that of Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, meant the application was denied.
Williams, now 46, was convicted in 1986 of first-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy in the death of Amos Norwood in Philadelphia. At the hearing on Monday, Shawn Nolan, a federal public defender, said clemency is warranted because Williams had been sexually abused from a young age by several men, including for years by Norwood. Williams also was beaten by his mother and stepfather, Mr. Nolan said.
“Who is Terry Williams?” he said. “He is a man shaped by the horror of his childhood.”
Williams is now is remorseful for his crimes, Mr. Nolan said.
Mr. Nolan also asked the board to heed a statement by Norwood’s widow that she did not want Williams put to death. And he cited statements by several jurors saying they would not have chosen the death penalty had they known of the claims of sexual abuse. Some also said they chose the death penalty because they thought a person sentenced to life could be paroled.
Tom Dolgenos, chief of the federal litigation unit at the Philadelphia district attorney’s office, countered that the Norwood murder was the culmination of an escalating series of crimes by Williams. He said the board should consider that decades of litigation had failed to reverse the sentence. And he asserted that Williams has a record of lying to escape consequences, while also noting that claims of abuse were not raised until years after trial. That delay, he said, was reason to be skeptical.
“The only way to grant clemency here is to accept the truth of these allegations,” he said.
David Lisak, a clinical psychologist who spoke in support of clemency, told the board that it is typical for victims, especially men, to recount past sexual abuse in a piecemeal fashion over a period of time. Several supporters of clemency urged board members to consider the promises made to victims when former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged and then convicted of child sexual abuse.
“Is it only some kids who get to be believed?” Mr. Lisak said.
But Mr. Dolgenos asserted that those cases were different, in part because Williams has something to gain by making claims of abuse.
“He has every incentive now to allege them — and to make them up if they didn’t actually happen,” Mr. Dolgenos said.
Proponents of clemency for Williams point to support from former judges and prosecutors as well as child advocates and others to argue the case is unique. An online petition seeking to stop the execution has more than 350,000 signatures, and the state’s Catholic bishops had written in support of commuting the sentence to life in prison.
At the hearing Thursday in Philadelphia, attorneys for Williams will request a stay of execution based on the allegations of sexual abuse. Mr. Nolan said they will argue prosecutors had evidence of sexual abuse that they did not disclose to the defense. The judge’s decision in the request can be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Two hundred people are on death row in Pennsylvania.
September 14, 2012 http://www.opposingviews.com
Terrance Williams of Pennsylvania has been sentenced to death after killing two men when he was 17- and 18-years old. What the jury did not know, however, was that Williams had been brutally raped as a child by the two men he killed.
Williams and another teen killed one man just a few months after Williams had turned 18, according to Change.org. He also admitted that he killed another man five months earlier. One man was a church leader and another was a sports booster. The men used their positions to get access to young boys.
Williams was allegedly sexually abused for years by these men, but he was also abused by other older individuals throughout his life. His mother had abused him frequently and his father was absent from the home. His first experience with sexual assault was when he was just six years old, and the abuse continued steadily for the next 12 years of his life.
He did not receive treatment or help from anyone for the duration of his suffering.
How do we know these abuse accusations are true — and not just Williams making a calculated attempt at saving his life?
According to The Nation, “It was not until this past winter that another witness would come forward, a former pastor named Charles Pointdexter, who knew Norwood for thirty years. He admitted having known that he had sexually abused teen boys.
“Amos seemed to have lots of close relationships with young men…” he stated in an affidavit signed February 9, 2012, saying that he began to suspect that they were “inappropriate” in nature. A few years before Amos’s death, one of the parishioners, the mother of a 15-year-old boy, told him that he had “touched her son’s genitals” during a car ride and that “Amos had inappropriately touched a number of boys at the church.” Pointdexter kept the knowledge to himself.
Because Williams was embarrassed and ashamed by the abuse, he says he did not present his experiences as evidence for trial. His lawyer also failed to conduct a thorough investigation of Williams’ motivations for killing the men, and ignored obvious signs of sexual abuse.
Many notable people have come forward to state that they would like his sentence to be reduced to life without parole. Among those objecting to his sentencing include the wife of one victim, five jurors from the trial, judges, child advocates, former prosecutors, faith leaders, mental health professionals, and law professors.
Jurors from the trial now say they would not have voted for execution had they known about his experiences with sexual abuse as a child.
A widow of one victim said that she has forgiven Williams and does not want any more deaths to come of the incident. She expressed hope that Governor Tom Corbett, the Board of Pardons, and District Attorney Williams will reduce his sentence to life without parole.
Courts have agreed that Williams’ lawyer failed to give him a fair trial, but they also have stated that evidence of sexual abuse would not have made a difference in the sentencing.
Jurors, however, have signed sworn affidavits saying they would not have voted for death if they had known about his past.
Several jurors have also said that they voted for him to be executed because they believed that, if they had not, Williams would be eligible for release on parole.
However, a life sentence in Pennsylvania means the convicted will never be eligible for parole. Pennsylvania is the only state in the U.S. that does not require judges to explain to the jury that a life sentence means there is no possibility of parole.
No explanation of life sentencing was given at Williams’ trial.
Terry Williams’ death warrant for October 3 was signed by Gov. Corbett last week. Corbett is a Catholic Republican.
- An E-Mail From Change.org (deafinprison.wordpress.com)