Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pennsylvania death-row inmate fights slated October execution

Terrance Williams
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A death-row inmate convicted of killing two people in his teens hopes to avoid becoming the first person executed in Pennsylvania since 1999.

Terrance Williams, 46, is on death row for fatally beating a man with a tire iron in 1984. Although he has exhausted his appeals, he has asked a Philadelphia judge to halt the scheduled Oct. 3 lethal injection based on new evidence about the victim and the key accuser.

"The killing of Amos Norwood was not a first-degree murder," Shawn Nolan, a federal public defender, wrote in a petition filed on Williams' behalf this year. "Terry Williams and the victim ... were involved in a conflicted sexual relationship in which Norwood paid teenaged Terry for sex. Norwood escalated the violence of their sexual encounters, despite Terry's attempts to stop (it)."

New statements from co-defendant Marc Draper, a policeman's son who testified against Williams in both murder cases, support his claims of a sexual relationship with Norwood. Jurors never heard about the potential motive, or about the deal Draper says he got to testify, Nolan said.

Nor did they hear Williams' claims that he had been physically and sexually assaulted throughout his childhood, and gang-raped at a juvenile facility.

Although the state Supreme Court upheld the death sentence, two judges dissented, finding "a fairly stark picture" of ineffective counsel during the penalty-phase — which consisted of brief, fairly banal comments from Williams' mother, the mother of his infant child and a cousin.

"If I had known those circumstances at that time — what had led him down that path — that definitely would have been a factor and my decision would have been different than the death sentence," juror Thomas Sturgis told defense investigators, according to Williams' petition.

Pennsylvania has executed only three people since the U.S. Supreme Court restored the death penalty in 1976. All of them chose to end their appeals. The last person executed was Gary M. Heidnik, for the murders of two of several women he tortured and held captive in his Philadelphia basement.

Unlike them, Williams has asked a Philadelphia judge for a stay of execution. The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, which prosecuted him, must respond to his petition by Sept. 21. The office had no comment Friday on the case, spokeswoman Tasha Jamison said.

Williams is also serving a life sentence for third-degree murder for another 1984 slaying which occurred when he was 17. That victim was also an adult male who had sexually abused him, according to his petition. He was also convicted of a 1982 armed robbery.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed Williams' death warrant on Thursday, as he has 15 others. But those inmates have not yet exhausted their state and federal appeals.

"The governor is sworn to uphold the laws of Pennsylvania, including capital punishment," Corbett spokeswoman Janet Kelley said.

Source: AP, August 10, 2012


Corbett signs death warrant for ex-Phila. man

Thirteen years after Pennsylvania last executed a person, a 46-year-old former Philadelphia man has been ordered put to death by lethal injection Oct. 3.

The death warrant for Terrance Williams - convicted in a 1984 robbery-murder when he was an 18-year-old college freshman - was signed Thursday by Gov. Corbett.

Experts say Williams' execution is likely to happen. He has exhausted three appellate avenues through state and federal courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last appeal June 29.

Williams' only legal hope is an emergency petition asking a Philadelphia judge to stay execution based on newly discovered evidence that Williams had been sexually molested throughout his life - including for a dozen years by the man he murdered.

Williams' lawyer, Shawn Nolan, assistant chief of the death-penalty unit at the Federal Defender's Office in Philadelphia, said the victim, Amos Norwood, 56, had a sexual relationship with Williams that began when Williams was 13.

And in January, Nolan said, Williams' admitted accomplice recanted his original testimony that Norwood was killed in a robbery.

In a Jan. 9 sworn statement, Marc Draper said Williams killed Norwood because of the abusive nature of their sexual relationship. Police coerced him into saying robbery was the motive, he said.

None of that information - including background on Williams' physical abuse by his mother and stepfather, and childhood sexual abuse by a neighbor and a teacher - was presented to the Common Pleas Court jury that condemned Williams to death in February 1986.

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Source: philly.com, August 10, 2012