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.


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