The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons denied clemency today to the Pennsylvania inmate who faces execution Oct. 3 for killing two men that he alleges sexually abused him.
Three out of the five board members voted to spare Terrance “Terry” Williams from a sentence of death, but a unanimous vote was required. Reports the Philadelphia Inquirer:
With Williams’ state and federal appeals exhausted all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the 46-year-old former Germantown High School quarterback’s last hope of escaping becoming the first person executed in Pennsylvania in 13 years lies in a hearing Thursday before Philadelphia Common Pleas M. Teresa Sarmina.
The court agreed to hear testimony from two witnesses whom Williams’ lawyers argue covered up evidence of Williams’ sexual abuse.
The clemency petition filed on behalf of Williams was supported by 22 former prosecutors and judges, 34 law professors, 40 mental health professionals and more than 36 religious leaders, and urged the board to spare from execution a man with an extensive childhood history of abuse that was never revealed to the jury. Even the widow of one of the victims submitted a letter asking that his life be spared. It was accompanied by a letter from 26 child advocates and sexual abuse experts, which stated: “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 clemency petition explained:
At the time of the killing, Terry was only three and a half months past his eighteenth birthday, the minimum age for the imposition of the death penalty. On that tragic day, Terry and another 18-year-old, Marc Draper, beat Mr. Norwood to death in a cemetery in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.
At trial, the jury was informed that Terry had prior convictions for a 1982 armed robbery and the 1984 killing of Herbert Hamilton, which Terry committed at ages 16 and 17, respectively. The jury never learned, however, that both Herbert Hamilton and Amos Norwood had sexually abused Terry, or that both killings directly related to Terry’s history of sexual abuse by these and older males, which began when Terry was only six years old. In fact, jurors heard very little about Terry’s childhood, which was marked not only by over a decade of sexual abuse, but by years of physical and emotional abuse, neglect and abandonment by those who were supposed to love and care for him. The unrelenting abuse and neglect made Terry an easy target for sexual predators. […]
Five of the jurors from Terry’s capital trial agree that Terry’s life should be spared. In recent sworn statements, they have explained that if they had known the truth about Terry’s childhood, the fact that he was exploited and sexually assaulted by the men he killed, as well as the fact that a life sentence meant life without parole, they never would have sentenced Terry to death.