Final testimonies were heard Monday Sept. 24 in the case of Terrance “Terry” Williams, a man convicted of murdering two people either during the course of robberies or in an uncontrollable rage stemming from years of sexual abuse.
Last Monday, the state’s Board of Pardons denied Williams’ application for clemency in a 3 to 2 vote. One of Williams’ defense attorneys, Shawn Nolan, Assistant Chief of the Capital Habeas Corpus Unit, Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, has argued that Williams suffered years of both physical and sexual abuse. The victims, Amos Norwood, 56, and Herbert Hamilton, 50, were two of those alleged abusers. Assistant District Attorney Tom Dolgenos has counter argued that the allegations of sexual abuse are hearsay and have been raised years after Williams’ conviction as a last ditch effort to avoid execution.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Board of Pardons has denied Terry’s request for clemency,” Nolan said. “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. 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. Williams, who considers himself an advocate and defender of victims of abuse, has allowed prosecutors to argue that evidence that Terry was abused since the age of 13 by the man he killed should not matter in deciding whether he lives or dies.”
After the Board’s decision, District Attorney Seth Williams said in a press release that Williams was trying to circumvent the judicial process. The allegations of sexual abuse are double hearsay and the defendant has a long history of violent behavior. It was that violence which led to the murders of both Norwood and Hamilton.
“From the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, through the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, to the United States District Court, to the United States court of Appeals, up to the United States Supreme Court, all upheld Williams’ death penalty conviction,” Williams said. “After 28 years of legal proceedings, Terrance Williams is trying to circumvent the judicial process by way of the pardons process. This effort is especially inappropriate in light of his violent history. The defendant has a long record of manipulative and malevolent behavior which eventually led to the deaths of two men. Now, as a last ditch effort to escape punishment for his crime, Williams is claiming he was raped by Amos Norwood the night before he killed Mr. Norwood. In the 28 years since the murder of Norwood, these new allegations only came to light just a few months ago, and he is not the one making the allegations. That is the striking thing about not just these new allegations, but about all of Williams’ allegations of sexual abuse: none of them came directly from Williams himself.”
The District Attorney said that Williams never testified under oath about all the abuse he supposedly suffered and never submitted an affidavit about it. The sexual abuse allegations have been offered through friends and experts who were “told” about the supposed abuse.
“This is not only hearsay; it is double hearsay, even triple hearsay in some instances,” Seth Williams said. “My office was able to reach Mr. Norwood’s daughter right before this hearing took place, and she expressed her desire that the original sentence be upheld, and that Terrance Williams be executed for the murder of her father. The defense was unable to convince the parole board to reach a unanimous decision in the case, and therefore clemency was denied.”
In order to grant clemency in a case, the Board would have had to reach a unanimous decision. As it now stands, Williams is scheduled to die on October 3. He will be the first person executed in Pennsylvania since Gary Heidnik was put to death in 1999.
The case against Williams started on June 11, 1984, when Amos Norwood was murdered. According to investigators, Williams and Marc Draper were gambling on a street corner and lost their money. Williams left the corner but later returned with $10 that he allegedly got from Norwood. Later Norwood drove by and Williams and Draper went with him, allegedly with the intention of taking his money. They drove to a cemetery where they allegedly forced Norwood out, bound and gagged him, robbed him and then beat him to death with a tire iron and a wrench and then fled. Later on, Williams returned and burned the body, something he allegedly attempted to do in the murder of Herbert Hamilton. Williams and Draper were arrested two months later. Draper made a deal with the prosecutors and pleaded guilty to second degree murder and criminal conspiracy. Williams was found guilty of first degree murder, robbery and conspiracy on February 3, 1986.
During the investigation two earlier, extremely violent crimes were brought to light and were used by the prosecutor, Andrea Foulkes, during Williams’ trial to secure the death penalty. Judge D. Brooks Smith heard arguments from Williams’ last appeal and upheld the death sentence. Judge Smith wrote that although Williams graduated from Germantown High, was an award winning athlete and a star quarterback at Cheyney University, he committed several other crimes and was functioning as a male prostitute, an aspect of his life he kept hidden. In January 1984, Williams allegedly murdered Hamilton by beating him with a baseball bat and then stabbing him more than twenty times with a butcher knife.
Investigators said Williams, who was 17 at the time, drove the butcher knife through the back of Hamilton’s neck until it protruded through the other side. He then doused Hamilton’s body with kerosene and unsuccessfully attempted to set fire to it. When police officers later entered the apartment, they found Hamilton’s kerosene-soaked body with the knife jammed through his neck; on the bathroom mirror, the phrase ‘I loved you’ was scrawled in toothpaste.
“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,” Nolan said.