Friday, September 28, 2012

Terrance Williams safe for now, but D.A. falls short of 'zealous, ethical and effective' standards

The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author.
This morning, Friday Sept. 28, 2012, the life of Terrance Williams was temporarily spared the execution scheduled for him just days from now. He is also scheduled to have another hearing with the Pennsylvania pardons board.

It was a day of joy in a courtroom that for weeks was gradually packed with all manner of people interested in the case. Williams'  family and childhood friends were there since the first of the post-conviction relief act hearings began. Some of them broke out in applause and praise to God — silenced by court officers when ... read more here

Well That Was Fun While it lasted

The fun never stops.

In a mystifying move,  the District Attorneys' office just announced that it is going to appeal Judge Sarmina's grant of clemency and relief for Terry Williams. May I just say, personally,  

"Seriously guys? What ARE you thinking? You just got spanked by the judge for withholding evidence and now you want to get even more negative publicity about prosecution and police misconduct? You're in TIME OUT until you can explain why you're behaving this way and offer an appropriate apology. The mind boggles."

And Seth, aren't you running for DA again? Have you decided to change your line of work?

And another thing, THIS is how you spend our tax dollars while cutting funding to critical programs? The mind boggles.

End of personal rant. At least for now. Please do continue to ask even more people to sign petition for clemency here:


Statement from Attorneys for Terry Williams in Response to the Stay of Execution and Vacation of Death Sentence

“On behalf of Terry Williams, we are extremely pleased that Judge Sarmina, after carefully considering all of the evidence in this case, has vacated the death sentence based on misconduct by the prosecution.  Her decision was right and well-reasoned.  As prosecutor for more than 10 years and a judge who likely presided over more than a hundred homicide trials, Judge Sarmina certainly understands how the prosecution misled the jury in this case. The Philadelphia District Attorney should stop their appeals and stop fighting to have Terry executed.

The District Attorney’s very own files were replete with evidence from as early as 1984 of predatory, exploitive and abusive acts by Herbert Hamilton and Amos Norwood against Terry Williams and other teenage boys.  It is legally and ethically unconscionable that Seth Williams and his Assistants have been advocating for the execution of Terry Williams after hiding critical evidence from jurors and continuing to hide it for 28 years.

Judge Sarmina found that the trial prosecutor engaged in misconduct. She found that the prosecutor 'played games and took unfair measures to win.' She also noted that the prosecutor violated her ethical duty for failing to turn over evidence in the files in the possession of the Commonwealth.

If the DA appeals, we are confident that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will not overturn Judge Sarmina’s well-reasoned decision, and do not believe that the Court will tolerate the prosecutor’s actions in this case, especially when life or death are at issue.

We are also hopeful that Governor Tom Corbett and the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons will now grant clemency in light of Judge Sarmina’s decision and the significance of the evidence that prosecutors kept from the Board during their life or death deliberations.  A majority of the Board, including Attorney General Linda Kelly, previously voted in favor of clemency.  Surely, after considering the new evidence, they will not allow this execution to go forward.”

- Shawn Nolan, attorney for Terry Williams
- September 28, 2012

Even though we have a stay at the moment, it's still very important to continue to gather signatures for the petition in support of clemency for Terry.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Report on Today’s Hearing of the Board of Pardons 9/27/12

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, nor have I ever played one on TV, cable or otherwise. Any inaccuracies are my own damn fault.

The first hurdle was for the members of the board to take a vote on whether or not to grant a re-hearing on the clemency petition for Terry Williams. In order to be granted a re-hearing, the petitioner has to provide proof of changed circumstances. In this case, the defense demonstrated that the District Attorney’s representative had lied in the previous clemency hearing that ended with a vote of three to one in favor of granting clemency.

The Board of Pardons voted in favor of granting a re-hearing, which after a brief recess, began with a review of the procedures, a reminder that we were guests of the Commonwealth, and a description of the three possible outcomes, namely, that the board could vote to recommend to Governor Corbett, clemency for Terry Williams. In order to make this recommendation, the vote would have to be unanimous. The second outcome is that if even one member of the board votes against recommending clemency, the application for clemency would be denied. The third possible outcome is that the board votes to take the matter under advisement to allow more time for deliberation.

Both sides were permitted to submit evidence to the board before today’s hearing. Attorney Shawn Nolan laid out the straight forward case for clemency. New information which had been withheld by the prosecution had been discovered since the last time the Board of Pardons met to consider clemency for Mr. Williams. Some of this evidence was only uncovered after Judge Sarmina, who is presiding over separate proceedings in Philadelphia, ordered that the boxes and boxes of files dealing with the original interviews and investigation. Mr. Nolan addressed every question that two of the board members had asked during the previous hearing.

That evidence was a bombshell. While the prosecutor of Terry’s original case was questioned under oath about her investigation, she was asked to read her notes, in her own handwriting. These notes clearly contained evidence that the prosecution has consistently denied existed, including her suggestion that evidence suggesting an underage Terry Williams and Mr. Norwood. I will not repeat some of the derogatory terms she used to describe the squad which she wrote that this case should be referred to for further investigation of a long time sexually predatory relationship on the part of Mr. Norwood. Not only were there notes concerning her belief at the time, there was even a statement made by the parent of another minor complaining that her son had been touched inappropriately as well by Mr. Norwood. As was the case in the first clemency hearing, attendees lowered their heads, shaking them slowly side to side, as the details were revealed.

After a few clarifying questions from the States Attorney General, the prosecution began their show, which amounted to repeating that the new evidence of ongoing abuse was not relevant. He spent a great deal of his allotted thirty minutes defending the actions of the DA’s office at the time. During questioning, he was asked to explain what Ms. Foulkes, the woman whose notes were so damning to the prosecution, meant by her testimony that “she would do things differently now.” To those of us listening, it’s clear what she meant. She knew that she had not performed her job,  that she had, in fact, failed to follow up on the most likely motive, i.e.  a black out fury prompted by Mr. Norwood’s raping Mr. Williams the night before. The DA stumbled, saying something about Ms. Foulkes being young and inexperienced and that she must be a better attorney now that she’s had more years of practice.

Can I just call “BS” here? How does a rookie prosecutor get assigned to a homicide case? Isn't that a big problem (if it's true) by itself? I’m supposed to believe that her mistakes were merely oversights? I’m not buying it. I’m confident that the Board of Pardons won’t buy it either. Even if they do believe that fairy tale, there is so much more evidence pointing to misconduct by police and the DA’s office, that I’m hopeful that the board will do the right thing and recommend that Governor Corbett grant clemency to Terry Williams.
Meanwhile, in Philly, Judge Sarmina has said that she will issue her ruling tomorrow on the request for a stay of execution. Having attend two of the four days of that hearing, it’s clear to me that there is overwhelming evidence that a stay of execution is the right outcome.

Meanwhile, please keep sharing the petition for clemency for Terry Williams and encouraging your friends to sign it. If the link above doesn't work, you can copy and paste this url into your browser.

We have only days left to show our support and help save Terry's life. If ever there was a case for clemency, this is it. Don't let Pennsylvania kill a man who was the victim of ongoing sexual abuse beginning when he was only six years old. Don't let PA execute a man when the jury didn't have the truth presented to them. Don't allow the state to execute a man whose case should never have been a death penalty case in the first place. Don't allow the state to kill Terry in our names.
More as I learn it.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Terrance Williams had no chance for a normal life; don't kill him

After reading Frank P. Cervone's piece "The Weight of Child Abuse: Should a Killer's Horrific Childhood Matter in Deciding His Fate?" (Sept. 18 Perspectives), I am fully convinced that Terrance Williams' execution should not take place on Oct. 3. We have all read about the tragic and widespread sexual abuse of boys in our trusted institutions and by prominent individuals in the commonwealth. It is unacceptable that our state may execute another victim of this unspeakable crime.

 As said in the article, "Victims of child sexual abuse face a monumental crossroad in the decision to disclose their abuse. Some get help, heal their emotional wounds and get on with their lives. Others don't tell their story, sometimes for months, years or ever. Later, they might hurt themselves or others."
Unfortunately for Mr. Williams, he kept silent and killed his abusers. After reading about Mr. Williams' abusive upbringing and years of sexual abuse, it has become very clear that he never had a real chance at a normal life. Mr. Williams has committed terrible crimes; that's not a question. But he still deserves for the crimes committed against him to be taken into consideration.
Glenside, Montgomery County

Great Letter to the Editor in Response to DA Seth Williams

September 25, 2012

Letters Editor
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Dear Editor:

As a citizen and a taxpayer, I am outraged that Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams should attempt to make a case for the execution of Terry Williams in the press (Philadelphia Inquirer, September 23).  Mr. Williams is a public official and an officer of the court.  The place for him to make his arguments is in court.  To abuse his position in such a fashion is to undermine the trust and credibility of his office, and to raise serious concerns about his fitness to lead it.

The Terry Williams case, involving as it does strong evidence of coerced and perjured testimony and prosecutorial misconduct, unfortunately fits the profile of much of what passed for "justice" in Philadelphia courts in the 1980s.  Many similar cases will soon come to term as Death Row prisoners exhaust their appeals.  Will Seth Williams contest each one?  If so, he will forfeit public confidence in himself and his office, and link himself to the abuses of a shameful past.


Robert Zaller

Please sign petition to save #TerranceWilliams at

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Update on Terry WIlliams Execution Fight

From Terry's Team

As you may know, on September 17, a three member majority of the
Pennsylvania Board of Pardons voted to grant clemency to Mr. Williams.
Notably, the members of the Board who voted in favor of clemency were the
three who are most familiar with victims of sexual abuse and victims
generally – Attorney General Linda Kelly, the Victim’s Representative, and
the Board’s mental health expert.  Unfortunately, under current
Pennsylvania law a unanimous Board recommendation for clemency is necessary
to reach the Governor’s desk.  See:

Nevertheless, we still have hope.

On September 20, Judge Teresa Sarmina of the Philadelphia Court of Common
Pleas began hearing testimony regarding Mr. Williams’ claim that the
prosecution withheld evidence from the jury about the true motive for the
killings in this case. As we have always alleged, Mr. Williams did not kill
Mr. Hamilton or Mr. Norwood for money.  He killed them in an explosion of
pain and rage borne from the years of sexual abuse at their hands and at
the hands of others.

As you may know, for weeks now, District Attorney Seth Williams and his
Assistants have been arguing that the only evidence in support of Terry
Williams’ claims of sexual abuse by the men he killed are self-serving
hearsay statements from Terry, and that these allegations are simply a
last-ditch effort to save his life.  However, at the hearing, numerous
pieces of evidence relevant to Terry Williams’ claims, which had been
hidden by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office for nearly three
decades, finally emerged.  Indeed, since 1984, the District Attorney’s
files have been replete with evidence of predatory, exploitive and abusive
acts by Herbert Hamilton and Amos Norwood.  This was proven in court.

The jury that convicted Terry Williams and sentenced him to death for the
murder of Amos Norwood believed that Mr. Norwood was a stranger to Terry.
Terry met his lawyer one day before the trial.  As a teenager on trial for
his life, he was not able to disclose the truth about the abuse he
suffered. However, in the years since Terry began sharing his history with
mental health professionals, prosecutors have consistently maintained, in
appeal after appeal, that there was no evidence of the sexually abusive
relationship between the teenaged Terry and Mr. Norwood, who was in his
fifties.  We now know that evidence was in the DA’s file for the last 28

Additionally, on September 18, we filed a request for reconsideration with
the Board of Pardons.  This request
was necessary because the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office provided
an inaccurate response to the only question asked by the Board’s
Corrections Representative, who later voted against recommending clemency
to the Governor.  The question related to a claim pending before Judge
Sarmina regarding an undisclosed deal with prosecutors for leniency in
sentencing for Mr. Williams’ co-defendant.  The DA stated that there was no
merit to the claim and there was no such deal.  That is patently false.
In fact, during Thursday's hearing before Judge Sarmina, the trial
prosecutor acknowledged that she failed to disclose to Mr. Williams’
defense attorney that she had made a deal with Mr. Williams’ co-defendant
in exchange for his testimony at the Norwood trial.  After acknowledging
her failure, she said she “would do it differently today.”  The trial
prosecutor’s handwritten notes also indicate that she had a deal with the
co-defendant.  (Her notes from a 1985 preparatory session with Mr. Draper
state, "allow you to plead guilty to M2 [Second degree murder] @ 10yrs").
None of this evidence was presented to the jury that sentenced Mr. Williams
to death and was not disclosed until the hearing that began last week.

You can read about the hearing before Judge Sarmina here:

The Board of Pardons has agreed to reconvene this Thursday, September 27,
to address the
request for reconsideration.

You may also be interested in a letter that 25 sexual assault and domestic
violence groups sent to the Philadelphia D.A.'s office last Friday.  The
letter addresses the offensive comments that District Attorney Williams and
his representatives made regarding the child sexual abuse in the case.
Disturbingly, Seth Williams and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office
continue to refer to Terry Williams as a “prostitute” and “hustler” without
acknowledging that he was a minor -- a child at the time predatory
middle-aged men were manipulating him with money and gifts.  Any suggestion
that sexual encounters between minors and middle-aged men are consensual
and that the minor is somehow “hustling” the older men is highly offensive,
and advocates have rightly renounced this characterization.  See

Lastly, you should know that more than 370,000 voices have joined your call
for clemency for Terry Williams.  See
 .  This unprecedented level of support would not have been possible
without you.  See You are part of a factually, legally and
ethically just cause, and we thank you.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Laura Moye: One Year Anniversary of Execution of Troy Davis

This post was written by Laura Moye Amnesty International.Laura Moye is the Death Penalty Abolition Campaign Director at Amnesty International USA. She has been an active voice for human rights and abolition of the death penalty since her days as a student activist. In 2009, Moye moved from AIUSA's Southern Regional Office, where she had served for 11 years. Her focus there was on building the human rights activist base in the South. She has organized scores of conferences and trainings and provided support to AI chapters and volunteer leaders and social justice coalitions in their human rights work. As part of her anti-death penalty work, Moye has worked on state legislative and clemency campaigns, including a campaign for a moratorium and study of Georgia's death penalty and to stop the execution of death row prisoner Troy Davis.

What If Troy Davis Was Innocent?  By Laura Moye  September 20, 2012 at 8:00 AM

If Troy Davis was innocent, the justice system failed and made murderers of us all. The state of Georgia ended Troy Davis’ life on behalf of its citizens and the federal courts, on behalf of all U.S. citizens, allowed it to happen.
Of course, murder is an unlawful homicide and execution is a lawful homicide.  So, technically speaking, we are not murderers because it is lawful in the United States to execute the innocent.  In Herrera v. Collins, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to rule that it would be unconstitutional for an innocent person to be executed as long as he or she had access to the judicial process.  Legal nonsense aside, Troy Davis’ blood is on all of our hands.
It is no wonder that a million signatures were amassed on petitions calling on Georgia to halt Troy Davis’ execution and that the media was all over the story.  Nobody wanted to have to answer the question, “Was Troy Davis innocent?” after the fact.  You didn’t have to be on the ground, like I was, outside the prison or at any of the number of demonstrations around the world the night of Troy Davis’ execution, to feel the palpable shockwave of disbelief.
Carlos DeLuna was executed by the state of Texas in 1989. A new study by Columbia University could prove his innocence.
It seemed completely unreasonable to the average person who came to understand how the case against Troy had come unraveled that his execution wouldn’t be stopped.  And those more cynical about the reasonable nature of government could not believe that the state was willing to let its reputation take such a bad hit.
How could our government allow any room for doubt in a death penalty case?  And why do we have any kind of tolerance for the execution of the innocent?
If you’re skeptical that it happens, consider that 140 individuals have been exonerated from death row since 1973, fortunately escaping execution.  Former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor said to a group of lawyers in 2001:
“If statistics are any indication, the system may well be allowing some innocent defendants to be executed.”
We can also ask, “What if Cameron Todd Willingham or Carlos de Luna were innocent?”  Both executed in Texas.  There is compelling analysis of their cases that make it easy to conclude that they were.
Amnesty International got a lot of traction with Troy Davis’ case because innocence is perhaps the most compelling issue connected to the death penalty, and the facts backing up his innocence claim were compelling.  However, we sometimes got the question, “What if Troy Davis is guilty?”  We picked up his case because it was riddled with many problems that we see plaguing the application of the U.S. death penalty.  It was no wonder he had an innocence claim.  In the process of trying to prevent his execution, we were able to help people understand the reality of the broken death penalty.
At the end of the day, we’re in the struggle to end executions because we believe governments should not have the irreversible and terrible power over life.  The issue of innocence has helped us to make this point.  The good news is that we do not need the death penalty to be safe or to hold those who murder accountable.  Justice does not require that the blood of anyone, guilty or innocent, be on our hands.

Monday, September 17, 2012


This afternoon, I sat in the Supreme Court court room in the capitol building in Harrisburg to listen to a hearing requesting clemency for Terry Williams. Every seat was filled and a few were left standing. At least two clergy stood with their ears pressed to the outside of the door after being denied entry because the security officers said that the room couldn't hold any more people.

The last time I attended a hearing of the Board of Pardons, there were over a dozen people asking for pardons for various offenses that had happened years and even decades, ago. Each supplicant had his or her attorney and witness to testify. On that day, the court room was not even 2/3 full. That should give you a sense of how large the room is.

Terry's attorney framed the case. He listed the mitigating factors, such as, physical abuse beginning in infancy, sexual molestation and repeated rapes by older men beginning at age 6, the self-mutilation Terry used to escape from his unimaginable pain. He talked about the fact that the jury did not know that a sentence of life in prison meant that Terry would never be eligible for parole. He reviewed the evidence which has just been discovered, that a co-conspirator who testified against Terry was told to lie about the motive for the killing in exchange for a lighter sentence. I knew these facts before I entered the court room so I was prepared emotionally for the summary. What I was not prepared for was the shocking testimony of the expert on sexual abuse of boys and its impact on adult men. He shared only some of what he learned after multiple sessions with Terry. Some of the details were so horrific he said that he would prefer not to mention them publicly, and unless asked to, he would prefer that the board refer to his written submission. As he began to share some of what Terry had suffered, several people sitting near me began to cry softly. Many in front of me lowered their heads, shaking them side to side, to try to hold themselves together. Two of them left the room.

There was more testimony from experts in the field of child advocacy, a nationally respected former warden of maximum security prisons who now trains other wardens,Vicki Schieber spoke on behalf of the victim's widow and expressed that Mrs. Norwood had forgiven Terry and that she did not want him to be executed. Although Vicki was the only one to testify, based in part on her experience as the mother of her daughter who was killed in Philadelphia, there were other murder victim's family members in attendance. They were all there to show support for clemency for Terry.

The prosecution, during its presentation, said that they had just reached another relative of Mr. Norwood's the day before the hearing. A member of the board asked if this family member had come to testify of if she had submitted anything in writing. It was clear that the Attorney General was not happy with statements made at the hearing that were based on a single phone conversation with a woman whose identity had not been verified. The prosecution called no witnesses.

After deliberations the board members came back to the court room and stated their votes. Three members of the board, notably including the Pennsylvania Attorney General, voted in favor of clemency. Two voted against. In PA, the vote to recommend clemency to the governor must be unanimous. Still, that vote reflects why this is such a clear case for clemency. Even with a conservative Board of Pardons, more than half of them voted for clemency.

The fight to save Terry's life is not over. I urge Governor Corbett to grant clemency and the District Attorney to withdraw the death warrant. The death penalty is reserved for the "worst of the worst." This man, who suffered so much at the hands of his abusers, does not fit that description. Yes, he killed. The men  he killed were his rapists. To paraphrase one of the witnessed, f the same killings were done by a woman who had been repeatedly raped, we would not be here. He's right. As a society we are still so squeamish about the topic of sexual abuse of boys that we would prefer to pretend it doesn't happen. It does, just like it did to the boys at Penn State, just like the boys victimized by Catholic priests, and just like it did to Terry.

Please join the victim's widow, victims' advocates, former judges and prosecutors, all of the Pennsylvania Bishops and the Archbishop of Philadelphia, and the over 350,000 others to demand justice. Demand clemency for Terry Williams.

Split Decision by Board of Pardons on clemency for Terry Williams

Statement from Attorney for Terry Williams Re: Board of Pardons Split Decision

"On behalf of Terry Williams, we are deeply disappointed that the Board of Pardons has denied Terry’s request for clemency. This is particularly disheartening after a majority of the Board, including the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, by a 3-2 vote, recommended to spare Terry’s life. Pennsylvania requires a unanimous recommendation in favor of clemency in order for clemency to be considered by the Governor.

Notably the majority vote for clemency for Terry Williams came from the three members of the Board who have the most experience with victims of child sex abuse and victims generally, including Attorney General Linda Kelly (who prosecuted the Sandusky scandal), the Victim Representative and a mental health expert. 

In light of the fact that the Commonwealth’s top prosecutor has voted for clemency, we are deeply troubled that District Attorney Seth Williams continues to push for Terry’s execution.  Seth Williams, who considers himself an advocate and defender of victims of abuse, has allowed prosecutors to argue that evidence that Terry was abused by the man he killed since the age of 13 should not matter in deciding whether he lives or dies.  

We look forward to presenting new evidence on Thursday in the Court of Common Pleas that prosecutors at the time of trial hid the true motive for the killing of Amos Norwood from jurors.  The motive was not robbery, as alleged at trial, but Mr. Williams' reaction to the years of abuse by Mr. Norwood.  Mr. Williams' co-defendant was aware of the true motive but testified that it was robbery in exchange for an undisclosed deal with the prosecutor to help him get early parole.

Evidence of the actual motive for the killing would have made a difference at Terry’s trial and jurors have submitted sworn affidavits declaring that, now that they know all the facts, they support life in prison without parole over the death sentence for Terry Williams. The victim's widow has also stated that she supports life without the possibility of parole. 

We are confident that a thorough review of the facts will make it clear that the jurors in this case did not have accurate and complete information about the crime or Terry Williams.” 

Please visit for more background about the case and information about the support for clemency for Terry.

Monday, September 10, 2012

URGENT: Clemency for Terrance Williams

Currently, Terrance "Terry" Williams is awaiting his death, scheduled for less than a month from today. On October 3, 2012, Terry will be executed by the state of Pennsylvania unless Governor Tom Corbett and the Board of Pardons can be convinced to commute Terry's death sentence to life in prison without parole.

Terry's story is a devastating one. In a clemency petition filed with the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons and Governor Corbett by child advocates and other Pennsylvanians, Terry's tragic childhood is outlined, beginning with his violent and abusive mother and step-father, and subsequent rapes by various older men, starting when Terry was only six years old. The rest of his childhood continued similarly. Terry was later repeatedly raped by men in positions of power, including a teacher and a church leader.

What ensued from this history of abuse after abuse is that Terry eventually lashed out at his abusers. Terry was first convicted of an armed robbery in 1982, at age 16, and for the 1984 killing of Herbert Hamilton, at age 17. Hamilton had been sexually abusing Terry until one day when Hamilton attacked Terry and a fight broke out between the two. It ended with Terry repeatedly stabbing Hamilton to his death.

Just a few months after Terry's 18th birthday, he murdered another of his abusers, Amos Norwood, a leader of the acolytes at Saint Luke's Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. What started as sexual abuse quickly escalated to violent sexual encounters between the two, where Norwood would beat Terry while raping him. During his trial, the jury was told of Terry's two prior convictions of armed robbery and murder. They were not told of his history of being sexually abused by the very men he killed. According to the clemency petition, Terry's attorney did not meet with him until the day before his trial began and did not investigate the facts of the trial. Several jurors who convicted Terry and opted for the death penalty rather than life without parole have now signed sworn affidavits saying that had they known of the history of abuse by Terry's victims, they would not have supported a death sentence.

Additionally, Norwood's widow has also come out in support for clemency for Terry, who is deeply penitent of his crimes, and would like his sentence reduced to life without parole. In total, 22 former prosecutors and judges, 34 law professors, 40 mental health professionals, and over three dozen faith leaders from across the state of Pennsylvania, including the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, have publicly called for Terry's death sentence to be commuted to life without parole. 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams all have the power to stop the execution of Terrance Williams and reduce his sentence to life without the possibility of parole. Please contact Governor Corbett, sign the petition on Terry's web site, and educate yourself about this case and other cases like it at the Death Penalty Information Center.

It is urgent that we act immediately and fight for this man's life. Please contact your representatives and spread the word. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Terry Williams: A Case for Clemency

Child Advocates, Jurors and Victim’s Widow Urge Clemency for Terry Williams, a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse Who Killed His Abusers

Unprecedented Outpouring of Support in PA by Former Prosecutors and Judges, Faith Leaders, Mental Health Professionals and Law Professors Who Join Call to Stop Execution Scheduled for October 3rd

Clemency Petition Filed Today Citing Horrific Physical and Sexual Abuse Unheard by Jury That Sentenced Terry to Death

(Philadelphia, PA; September 6, 2012) Today, more than two dozen child advocates joined former jurors, the victim’s widow and dozens of other concerned individuals and organizations, in urging Governor Tom Corbett and the Board of Pardons to grant clemency to Terrance “Terry” Williams, who suffered years of physical and sexual abuse from older males, eventually killing two of his abusers while in his teens. Among those who are publicly calling for the death sentence to be commuted are 22 former prosecutors and judges, 34 law professors, 40 mental health professionals and over three dozen faith leaders from across Pennsylvania including the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput. If Terry Williams is executed on October 3, 2012, he will be the first non-volunteer put to death by the Commonwealth in 50 years.

In a letter sent to Governor Tom Corbett and the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, child advocates noted the special impact of child sex abuse cases in Pennsylvania because of the tragic events which have come to light involving Jerry Sandusky and the Catholic church, writing, “In our Commonwealth, we have seen very public and analogous examples of this phenomenon as major institutions in Pennsylvania have come under scrutiny regarding the sexual abuse of children.”

The letter from child advocates continues, “The evidence of abuse in this case is clear. There can be no doubt that Terry was repeatedly and violently abused and exploited as a child and teenager by manipulative older men. Terry’s acts of violence have, alas, an explanation of the worst sort: enveloped by anger and self-hatred, Terry lashed out and killed two of the men who sexually abused him and caused him so much pain.”

The letters from the child advocates and the other distinguished Pennsylvanians accompanied a clemency petition filed today with the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons and Governor Corbett by Terry’s attorneys urging commutation to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The clemency petition provides details of Terry’s horrific childhood of abuse and rape. Growing up in poverty and chaos, Terry was raised by a violently physically abusive single mother. First raped by an older boy when he was only six years old, Terry was later groomed by a public schoolteacher who bought him food, clothes, a bicycle and gave him rides to school and eventually began raping him.

As a teenager, Terry was the victim of two other older men. These men used their influence as a church leader and as a sports booster to get access to young boys. Terry was sexually abused and exploited by both of these men.  Tragically, Terry killed both of these men when he was seventeen and eighteen years old, respectively.

The jury that convicted Terry and sentenced him to death for the murder of Amos Norwood, which occurred just three months after Terry turned eighteen, never knew all the relevant facts.  Terry’s attorney, who did not meet with him until the day before the trial started, did not investigate the facts of the case before trial and never told the jurors that Terry was abused throughout his childhood and was abused by the men he killed.  Now, several jurors say that if they had known the whole truth about Terry's story, they would have voted for life instead of death.  “If I had known that Terrance Williams had a sexual relationship with the older male victim, that definitely would have made a difference” says one of the jurors who signed an affidavit. “That would have been shocking. I certainly think he would not have been sentenced to death.”

Additionally, Pennsylvania is the only state where courts are not required to instruct juries that life means life without parole in first- and second-degree murder cases. Several jurors from Terry's capital trial have stated that they did not understand this crucial point, and thought that their choice was between a death sentence or a life sentence with the possibility of parole. “If I had known that a life sentence meant life without parole, I personally would have voted for a life sentence, and I think other people would have voted for life too,” one juror stated in a sworn affidavit.

Now that they have all the facts, five of the jurors from Terry’s capital trial have submitted sworn affidavits expressing their support for life in prison rather than the death sentence handed down at trial.
In addition to child advocates and jurors, the victim’s widow supports clemency for Terry, who is deeply remorseful. Despite losing her husband, Mrs. Norwood has forgiven Terry and expresses her support for Terry’s sentence to be reduced from death to life. In Mrs. Norwood’s words, “I have come to forgive Mr. Williams. It has taken me many years. I want his life spared and I do not want him executed. I am at peace with my decision and I hope and pray that my wishes are respected.” (Read her affidavit here:

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams have the power to stop the execution and reduce Terry Williams’ sentence from death to life without the possibility of parole.

Please join us in asking for clemency for Terry and sign the petition here.