Terry Williams

Terry Williams Case Highlights the Need For Death Penalty Moratorium by David A.Love

  • David A. Love

Executive Director, Witness to Innocence


October 9, 2012 

When Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina stayed the execution of Terry Williams, she dealt a blow to the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Now the public has caught a glimpse of prosecutorial misconduct and evidence suppression in the application of the death penalty, and it isn’t pretty.

In her order, Judge Sarmina — a former prosecutor —issued a scathing indictment of the prosecutor in that case for hiding evidence that Amos Norwood was allegedly, a sexual predator who had molested Williams and other children.

Sarmina said “evidence has plainly been suppressed,” and accused former assistant D.A. Andrea Foulkes of engaging in “gamesmanship” and “playing fast and loose.” The judge also said Foulkes “had no problem disregarding her ethical obligations” in an attempt to win.

Given these developments, it is baffling that any governor or district attorney would want to hitch their wagon to the execution of Terry Williams.

The tainting of capital cases — the handiwork of renegade prosecutors, police officers and other actors in the criminal justice system — is part of the unseemly underbelly of the death penalty.

It is a broken, arbitrary system that discriminates against the poor and people of color. Over 130 capital convictions have been overturned in the Keystone state, the highest in the nation. And Pennsylvania’s death row population is nearly 70 percent of color, the highest percentage in the U.S., with the city of Philadelphia providing the bulk of the prisoners.

Executions are barbaric and a violation of international human rights law. And as Martin Luther King noted, “Capital punishment is against the better judgment of modern criminology, and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.” Moreover, innocent people are most certainly put to death.

Since 1973, 141 innocent men and women across the U.S. have been released from death row. They spent an average of ten years in conditions that can only be described as torture. Of these, six were wrongfully imprisoned on Pennsylvania’s death row. And official misconduct played a role in nearly all of their unjust convictions.

Nicholas Yarris, who was sentenced to death for the 1981 rape, abduction of murder of Linda May Craig in Delaware County, spent 22 years on death row before he was exonerated. His wrongful conviction was secured through perjured testimony of a jailhouse informant, and the refusal of the prosecution to hand over twenty pages of documents.

Wrongfully convicted of murdering a Philly mobster and a female companion, Neil Ferber spent fourteen months on death row. He was also the victim of false testimony from a jailhouse informant, and evidence of his innocence that was not handed over to his defense.

Harold Wilson, who was sentenced to death for the murder and robbery of three people in South Philadelphia, was exonerated through DNA evidence after spending seventeen years in prison. In 2003 a court ruled that the prosecutor in the original trial had eliminated potential black jurors.

In 2000, William Nieves was acquitted by a Philadelphia jury for a 1992 murder someone else committed, yet for which he was convicted in 1994. His original defense lawyer was paid $2,500 and had no experience handling capital cases. When he was retried, Nieves’ new lawyer had access to evidence that had been withheld from the defense. Nieves died of liver problems in 2005 due to improper medical treatment while in prison.

Thomas Kimbell was convicted of four murders in 1998, despite no evidence or eyewitnesses linking him to the crimes. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 2000 because the trial judge had unfairly excluded evidence pointing to his innocence. Kimbell was acquitted of all charges after a retrial in 2002.

Sentenced to die for a 1979 triple murder, Jay C. Smith was released in 1992. The state’s high court found that the D.A. had committed “egregious” misconduct by withholding crucial evidence.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations — a database of 973 of the 2,000 criminal exonerations over the past 23 years, including 32 exonerations in Pennsylvania — official misconduct was the second most common factor associated with murder exonerations in America, occurring in 56 percent of cases. Perjury and false accusations were found 64 percent of the time, followed by mistaken witness identification (27 percent), false confessions (25 percent) and false and misleading forensic evidence (23 percent).

With 200 people condemned to death, Pennsylvania has the fourth largest death row in America. With no voluntary executions in the state in half a century, the tragic story of Terry Williams has reopened the debate on capital punishment. We do not know how many of death row inmates would be free or serving a lesser sentence, but for an ethically challenged prosecutor who believed in winning over seeking justice. Given what we know, now is as good a time as any to shut down Pennsylvania’s broken death machine.

David A. Love is the Executive Director of Witness to Innocence, a national nonprofit organization that empowers exonerated death row prisoners and their family members to become effective leaders in the movement to abolish the death penalty.

Follow David A. Love on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidalove

The US Is Still Executing People For Crimes Committed As Teens

September 25, 2012 http://www.eurasiareview.com

The United States never misses an opportunity to castigate other countries for “uncivilized” behavior, and certainly there is enough of that to go around almost anywhere you look in the world. But there’s plenty of it here in the U.S. too.

Just consider the case of Terry Williams.

Williams, a 47-year-old black man, has spent almost 30 years on Pennsylvania’s crowded death row while lawyers sought appealed his death penalty for two murders committed back when he was a 17 and 18-year old boy. Now he’s about to be killed by the state for those crimes.

At the time he was tried and convicted, although it was known to prosecutors that his two victims were adult men who had forcibly raped Williams when he was as young as 13, and that he had been a victim of sexual abuse since he was six, the jury was not informed about any of this. In recent years, a number of the 12 jurors who originally convicted him and sentenced the teenager to death have now said that had they known about the abuse he suffered — particularly at the hands of the two men he later killed — they would have decided the case differently, and certainly would not have voted for the death penalty. Even the wife of one of his victims has pleaded with the state to spare him.

Nevertheless, the state’s governor, Tom Corbett, a hard-on-crime Republican who, prior to being elected to the state’s top post, served as attorney general, making him the state’s top lawyer, had no hesitation in signing his death warrant earlier this month, with an Oct. 3 execution date.

The irony is that Pennsylvania has just gone through a huge ugly scandal involving the football program at its largest public university, Pennsylvania State University, where the defensive coach on the school’s nationally recognized football team, Jerry Sandusky, was found to have been raping dozens of young boys over a period of some 20 years, at least part of that time with the knowledge of the school’s athletic director and top school officials, who acted to cover up his crimes. Sandusky was tried and found guilty of multiple rapes, and could be sentenced to life in prison.

There are credible allegations that Corbett, as attorney general, ignored charges and evidence forwarded to his office that Sandusky was raping and molesting young boys at Penn State.

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 ruling, abolished execution for people convicted of murder who were 17 or younger at the time they committed their crime. At the time of that decision there were more than 70 people on the nation’s death rows who had committed their capital crimes while aged 16 or 17. Interestingly, the court majority cited “international opinion” in partial explanation for its decision. Between 1990 and 2007, there were only seven countries that had executed someone under 18: Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and China. By 2007, even those nations had put a halt to such executions.

Williams’ case stands apart, because one of his two murders was perpetrated after he had turned 18. But the fact of his repeated abuse at the hands of both of his victims, plus his long history of sexual abuse as a child, complicates the picture, painting him clearly as a victim himself.

In most “civilized” countries, this history of abuse would be a clear mitigating factor in determining the appropriate punishment for his crimes, and perhaps even his guilt or innocence.

Meanwhile, while no one will again be executed in the US for a murder committed under the age of 18, those who were facing death before the Supreme Court’s decision merely had their sentences converted to life in prison without possibility of parole, which many critics argue is perhaps worse than death, and which certainly is “cruel and unusual,” particularly given modern neurological research showing that the brain and personality is still not even fully developed at the age of 18, or even 21.

In Pennsylvania alone — a state where the concepts of mercy, compassion and understanding appear to be uniquely in short supply –there are an astonishing 470 prisoners currently serving prison terms of life-without-chance-of-parole who committed their crimes as children. Nationwide, the figure is close to 2600. Some of these people committed their crimes when they were as young as 14. Many, we know, had suffered circumstances of neglect or abuse similar to what Terry Williams endured as a child, but had shoddy defense attorneys who failed to bring such evidence to the attention of the court and the jury, or had prosecutors who deliberately and illegally hid that evidence.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled in one such case — that of a woman named Trina Garnett, who was convicted of setting a house fire at the age of 14 which killed two young boys — that such permanent sentences were unconstitutional. Garnett, a low-IQ girl with diagnosed mental problems, was serving a life sentence and was 50 at the time that the court, in another 5-4 decision, granted her the right to a new sentencing hearing. All such prisoners sentenced to life in prison as children will now at least have a chance for a re-sentencing hearing.

It’s a small step towards civilized behavior in the nation that today has the highest percentage of its citizens behind bars of any country in the world.

Phila. prosecutor calls death-penalty plea by Terrance Williams bogus. “Its a complete lie” Andrea Foulkes said..

Update september 24, 2012

An accomplice who feels he was shafted after cutting a deal with Philadelphia prosecutors nearly 30 years ago tried Monday to save the life of the man against whom he testified.

Terrance “Terry” Williams, 46, is set to be the first person executed in Pennsylvania in 50 years who has not given up his appeals. A divided state pardons board rejected his bid for clemency last week but may revisit his case before the scheduled Oct. 3 execution.

Williams is on death row for killing 56-year-old Amos Norwood three months after turning 18 — and five months after killing another older man.

Williams now says both victims had sexually abused him. And his lawyers say prosecutors knew that before trial, yet failed to disclose the information to Williams’ trial lawyer or the jury.

“The arbitrary and capricious nature of the death penalty is exemplified, to me, by this case,” said Marc Bookman, executive director of The Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, a nonprofit death penalty resource center in Philadelphia. “No one would say that this guy should be the first guy executed (in recent years), that he’s the worst of the worst.”

In court Monday, accomplice Marc Draper, a policeman’s son, told Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina that a detective coerced him into lying about the motive for Norwood’s death. He said he agreed to play up the robbery motive — he and Williams had stolen $20 and two credit cards after fatally beating Norwood at a cemetery — and avoid the sex angle.

“I was a sheep, to do anything that they wanted me to do. And I regret that. I’m almost embarrassed to say that, that I was so gullible,” Draper said.

Williams had sex with several older men for money or gifts, Draper said. The defense claims that Norwood, a church deacon, began having sex with Williams when the boy was 13. And they say prosecutors knew about the relationship and had at least one other molestation complaint about Norwood that was not disclosed.

Draper is serving life without parole after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. He said he was promised a parole hearing after 15 years if he cooperated, only to learn that in Pennsylvania, a life sentence means life.

On cross-examination, Draper got tangled up at times explaining his changing story. But even without his testimony, Sarmina could stay the execution if she finds prosecutors withheld evidence.

District Attorney Seth Williams, in a weekend opinion column in The Philadelphia Inquirer, called Terrance Williams “a brutal, two-time murderer” and dismissed the new evidence claims.

“The most noticeable thing about this case is not the ‘new evidence.’ It’s the willingness of some people to believe every defense claim as if it were gospel truth,” Williams wrote.

The five-member state pardons board, which includes Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley and state Attorney General Linda Kelly, plans to meet Thursday morning to decide whether to reconsider Williams’ clemency petition. If so, the hearing would be held Thursday afternoon.

Alternately, if Sarmina grants a stay, and the decision is not overturned, Williams’ death warrant would expire on Oct. 3. Gov. Tom Corbett would then have 30 days to issue a new death warrant, to be carried out within 60 days, if Williams is not pardoned or granted a life sentence.

There are 200 people on death row in Pennsylvania, but only three people have been executed since 1976.


Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Death-row-inmate-gets-support-from-ex-accomplice-3888691.php#ixzz27TDdBxdQ

Septembre 24, 2012, http://www.sacbee.com

PHILADELPHIA — A hearing is set to continue Monday for a death-row inmate who could become the first person in Pennsylvania executed since 1999.

Forty-six-year-old Terrance “Terry” Williams now claims he was sexually abused for years by the man he admits beating to death in 1984 at the age of 18. He’s asked a Philadelphia judge to halt the scheduled Oct. 3 lethal injection based on new evidence about the victim and the key accuser.

The hearing was continued Thursday after nine hours of testimony. It’s scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. Monday.

One of the issues at Thursday’s hearing was whether prosecutors and homicide detectives withheld from Williams’ lawyers a statement that the killing was motivated by rage over sexual abuse. The jury was told it was over a robbery.

September 21, 2012 http://www.philly.com

The prosecutor who put Terrance Williams on death row denounced Williams’ admitted accomplice Thursday, rejecting as a lie the contention that Williams killed Amos Norwood in a sexual rage and that authorities ignored evidence of his motive.

“It’s a complete lie,” Andrea Foulkes said when asked about new statements by Marc Draper. Draper now says Foulkes and detectives ignored his information about a sexual motive behind the 1984 killing of Norwood, 56, in West Oak Lane.

Draper’s account of Williams’ alleged abuse by Norwood is the evidence being used by Williams’ lawyers to try to block his scheduled Oct. 3 execution.

Answering questions from Williams’ lawyer Billy Nolas, Foulkes said Draper “absolutely did not tell me this case was about Terry Williams having sex with Mr. Norwood.”

Draper, in affidavits provided this year in Williams’ defense, asserted that Foulkes and detectives told him to say Norwood was killed in a robbery.

Foulkes, now a federal prosecutor, testified for seven hours before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina on a motion by Williams’ lawyers to stay his execution.

Draper, 46, who like Williams was an 18-year-old Cheyney University freshman in 1984, testified briefly and is scheduled to return when the hearing resumes Monday.

Williams, 46, has exhausted state and federal appeals and will be executed unless his legal team can convince Sarmina that newly discovered evidence merits an emergency stay.

Williams’ lawyers say that in addition to Draper’s claim of a sexual motive, the jury that condemned Williams to death should have known about Foulkes‘ promise to write to state parole officials describing Draper’s cooperation.

Foulkes acknowledged that she wrote the letter in 1988 and gave it to Draper’s father, George, a city police officer, to use when Marc Draper decided to try to get his life term commuted.

Foulkes conceded to Sarmina that in retrospect, she should have told the jury about the letter when she questioned Draper about the terms of his guilty plea.

But the prosecutor also said she made clear to Draper that a commuted sentence was a long shot and that he would serve decades in prison before it would be considered.

Sarmina puzzled aloud why Draper pleaded guilty to a crime that guaranteed him life in prison.

Foulkes said Draper might have faced the death penalty had he gone to trial, although the case against him was not as strong as the case against Williams.

“Basically, he really didn’t get a very good deal,” Foulkes said.

On that, Draper agreed. Testifying Thursday, Draper told the judge: “I guess, looking at my prosecution, I feel like I was wronged. I didn’t deserve to get a second-degree life sentence. I don’t think so.”

But Draper said his recantation was not based on anger but his rebirth as a Christian.

“As a man of faith, a man of God, I don’t want to see anybody die in that manner,” Draper said, referring to Williams.

Foulkes maintained that in trial preparation, preliminary hearings and Williams‘ 1986 trial, Draper never wavered in his account: Norwood was killed in a robbery, and he was appalled when Williams started beating Norwood with a tire iron.

In court filings Thursday, the district attorney’s office urged Sarmina to dismiss the bid for a stay of execution, saying the claims of sexual abuse had been heard and rejected by state and federal appeals courts.

Draper raised Foulkes‘ promise of support for parole in 2000, prosecutors argued.

After the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Ronald Eisenberg repeated that “none of this is new.”

“The issue of his alleged new information is not new,” Eisenberg said. “This defendant has always had it with him and if he wanted to, he could have brought it up at trial.”

Eisenberg referred to Foulkes‘ testimony that Williams never raised the issue of sexual abuse by Norwood at his trial. Instead, Foulkes testified, Williams testified that he was not there and that Norwood was killed by Draper and another person.

Norwood, a volunteer at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, was found in Ivy Hill Cemetery, his body charred beyond recognition and his skull shattered by a tire iron.

The use of some of Norwood’s stolen credit cards eventually led police to Draper, who implicated Williams and agreed to testify at two murder trials in which Williams was the accused killer.

While Draper was being questioned in the Norwood case, he told detectives that Williams had told him about a murder six months earlier: the Jan. 26, 1984, stabbing of Herbert Hamilton, 50, of West Philadelphia.

The jury in the Hamilton case convicted Williams of third-degree murder, apparently believing Draper’s testimony that Williams killed Hamilton because the older man tried to force him to have sex.

PENNSYLVANIA-Terry Williams Sentenced to Execution for Killing Two Men Who Sexually Abused Him as a Child – STAYED

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

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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.