Terrance Williams scheduled to die October 3
A clemency hearing was held yesterday for Terrance Williams, a man who is scheduled for execution on Oct. 3 for two murders committed back in 1984 when he was 17 years old.
Among those calling for a stay of execution in the case is Mamie Norwood, widow of Amos Norwood, who Williams beat to death with a tire iron. Norwood said in a letter dated January 2012 that after a great deal of prayer, she is convinced that the life of her husband’s killer should be spared. If the execution goes as planned, it would make Williams the first person executed in Pennsylvania since notorious torture killer Gary Heidnik was put to death in 1999.
“I was angry and resentful toward Mr. Williams for many years,” she wrote. “But then several years ago, I accepted that Amos was not coming back. I knew I had to find a way to heal and live a peaceful and happy life. I realized that the only way I could do that was to forgive Terry Williams for what he did. Several years ago, after much prayer and self-reflection, I found the strength and courage to forgive Terry Williams for what he did. I do not wish to see Terry Williams executed. His execution would go against my Christian faith.”
Terry Williams murdered Amos Norwood, 56, with a tire iron inside a Mt. Airy cemetery in 1984. He also murdered a second man, Herbert Hamilton, 50. His defense is arguing that the murders were precipitated by Williams’ years of childhood sexual and physical abuse and are mitigating circumstances.
In the petition for executive clemency, basically requesting Governor Tom Corbett to commute the death sentence to life in prison, his attorneys argue that the jury which convicted Williams never heard the circumstances surrounding the abuse he suffered. It is also argued that Norwood and Hamilton were two of Williams’ sexual abusers. The petition states that Williams suffered “years of physical and emotional abuse, neglect and abandonment” and the “unrelenting abuse and neglect made Terry an easy target for sexual predators. Two of those alleged sexual predators, the petition states, were Norwood and Hamilton, who allegedly “preyed on teenage boys” offering money, clothes and food in exchange for sex.
On June 11, 1984, Williams and Marc Draper were gambling on a street corner and lost their money. According to investigators, Williams left and later returned with ten dollars that he allegedly got from Norwood. Later Norwood drove by and Williams and Draper went with him, with the intention of taking his money. They drove to a cemetery, where they forced Norwood out, bound and gagged him, robbed him and then beat him to death with a tire iron and a wrench. Later on, Williams returned and burned the body. Williams and Draper were arrested two months later. Draper made a deal with 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.
But the murder of Norwood was an expression of Williams’ dark side, the Mr. Hyde, to borrow the term from his last appeal that was argued from Dec. 7, 2010 to March 9, 2011. Two earlier, extremely violent crimes were used as aggravating circumstances during his trial to secure the death penalty.
Judge D. Brooks Smith heard arguments from Williams’ last appeal and upheld the death sentence. Although Williams graduated from Germantown High, was an award-winning athlete and a student at Cheyney University, there was a darker side to his nature, Judge Smith wrote. After committing several other crimes, 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. Hamilton had also been accused of sexually abusing Williams.
“Williams drove the butcher knife through the back of Hamilton's neck until it protruded through the other side,” Judge Smith said. “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. Williams was then seventeen.”
Attorneys for the prosecution counter argue that Williams’ assertion that he was sexually abused by the victims wasn’t raised until he had lost his appeals.
Killer would be first person put to death in Pa. since 1999
The state of Pennsylvania hasn’t executed a prisoner since notorious serial killer Gary Heidnik was put down by lethal injection on July 6, 1999 — but that may change on Oct. 3.
On that date, Terrance Williams is scheduled to be put to death — an execution order that was signed by Governor Tom Corbett last week. Williams has run through the appeals process, but a federal public defender has petitioned a Court of Common Pleas judge to commute his death sentence to one of life in prison. The argument is that Amos Norwood, 56, the man Williams killed, sexually and physically abused him from his early teens — and the abuse was escalating. Further, Williams had been victimized sexually since he was six years old and was striking back at Norwood when he killed him. This information, argues federal community defender Shawn Nolan, was not presented to the jury who convicted and sentenced him of murder in the first degree in 1986.
“Terry’s case is unique, and Terry is deserving of mercy,” said Nolan. “We hope that those with the power to prevent this injustice will agree that Terry’s death sentence should be commuted to life without the possibility of parole. Most Pennsylvanians would agree that the death penalty is the punishment for the worst of the worst offenders, not for traumatized victims of sexual abuse who strike back at their abusers. Terry Williams’ story is one of horrific childhood sexual and physical abuse. A victim of sexual abuse since the age of 6, Terry was preyed on repeatedly by older males throughout his childhood. Born into poverty, with a violently abusive mother and no father, Terry was vulnerable and victimized by a series of predators. Deeply traumatized from the sexual and physical abuse, at the ages of 17 and 18, Terry killed two
of those predators. Terry is profoundly remorseful for these crimes.”
The complicated case goes back to June 11, 1984. On that date, Williams and Marc Draper were gambling on a street corner and lost their money. According to investigators, Williams left and later returned with $10.00 that he 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 remote location 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 the scene. Later on, Williams, who was 21 at the time, returned and burned the body, something he had attempted to do in an earlier crime.
Four days later a child who was out walking his dog discovered the burned remains. 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. He is now at the State Correctional Institution at Greene awaiting execution.
But the murder of Norwood was an expression of Williams’ dark side, the Mr. Hyde, according to his last appeal, which was argued from December 7, 2010 to March 9, 2011. Two earlier, extremely violent crimes were used as aggravating circumstances during his trial to secure the death penalty.
“As Dr, Jekyll, Williams was a local football star, the quarterback of the Germantown High School team that won the Philadelphia Public League championship in 1982,” wrote Judge D. Brooks Smith in the appellate decision. “He was presented with the sportsman of the year award by the Philadelphia Board of Sports Officials, and he was recruited by at least eight different collegiate institutions. Nearly all of Williams' coaches and teachers described him as mild-mannered, law-abiding, and honest. In 1983, Williams graduated from Germantown High and matriculated to Cheney State College in Philadelphia. In the estimation of one of his instructors, Williams was ‘highly respected and admired by his teacher[s] and all of his classmates.’ He was not only the star of the school's football team, but also a classmate and student who showed respect for others and accepted his popularity with modesty.”
That’s not the side of his nature he displayed on December 25, 1982. Court documents and investigative reports show that on the 1982 Christmas Eve, a then 16-year old Williams broke into the home of Don and Hilda Dorfman. Williams allegedly awoke Hilda Dorfman, 64, by pressing a .22 caliber Winchester rifle to her neck and covered her face with the bed sheet. Williams and an accomplice then allegedly robbed the couple and stole their car.
“He was released pending trial, however, and in January of 1984, he embarked in earnest on a crime spree that would continue for the better part of six months,” Judge Smith said in his appellate decision. “Williams' next victim was a 51-year-old man named Herbert Hamilton, an individual from whom Williams had been receiving money in exchange for sex. This relationship, like much else in Williams' life, was kept hidden from most who knew him. Hamilton apparently threatened to publicize the secret, so Williams took action, committing a murder that remained unsolved at the time he allegedly killed Norwood.
Action amounted to going to Hamilton’s home, and as the two were going to bed, Williams took out a ten-inch butcher knife and attempted to stab Hamilton. During a struggle in which Hamilton managed to take the knife, Williams took a nearby baseball bat and severely beat Hamilton before stabbing him twenty times.
“Finally, Williams drove the butcher knife through the back of Hamilton's neck until it protruded through the other side,” Judge Smith said. “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. Williams was then seventeen.”
It wasn’t until the Norwood killing that information about Williams’ connection with the Hamilton killing came out after Draper’s arrest. Nolan argues that Norwood had a sexual relationship with Williams that began when he was 13. She also said that Draper recanted his original testimony that Norwood was killed during a robbery; now he says the motive for the murder was the sexual abuse he suffered because of Norwood and the police coerced his earlier confession.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office politely declined to comment on the case.
The furor over Court of Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina’s decision to grant a stay of execution for convicted double murderer Terrance Williams continued this week when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to allow Williams’ scheduled execution.
Williams would have received a lethal injection on Wednesday, but the high court refused a request by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office for the state to proceed with the execution. The Supreme Court upheld Sarmina’s earlier ruling that more time was needed to review whether or not crucial evidence that Williams had been sexually molested by his two victims was withheld by the prosecution.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said the Supreme Court would now be able to review all of the facts of the case. He said that the defendant deserved the death penalty for his brutal crimes.
“Although immediate review has been denied, the case will now proceed as a normal appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court,” Seth Williams said. “This is not the first time the prosecution has appealed a capital case, and it probably won’t be the last. As I have explained, I have been very selective about seeking the death penalty. But I continue to believe the defendant received an appropriate sentence and his new claims are not true. The Supreme Court will now have the time to look at all the facts.”
The district attorney lashed out at Judge Sarmina, saying her ruling “unjustly overturned” Terrance Williams’ well-deserved death sentence.
“The judge accuses police and prosecutors of suppressing evidence that the victim, 56 year-old Amos Norwood, may have had homosexual proclivities. That alleged evidence says the defendant could have supported his claim that he himself was abused by Norwood and that Norwood was an unsympathetic victim,” Seth Williams said. The defendant, Seth Williams said, tied Norwood up, gagged him with a sock and beat him to death with a tire iron. Afterward, Terrance Williams doused the body in gasoline and set it on fire, then went to Atlantic City and gambled with Norwood’s stolen credit cards.
“In her entire 45-minute ruling, the judge never once mentioned that Terrance Williams himself has never testified that he was abused,” Seth Williams said. “In fact, at his trial he took the stand and swore under oath that Mr. Norwood and he were total strangers, and that he had nothing to do with the murder. The judge also disregarded another crucial fact. The prosecution did turn over the only information it has ever possessed regarding a sex-for-hire relationship between the defendant and Mr. Norwood. Two witnesses told police that the defendant claimed Norwood was gay, that he was going to extort money from Norwood, and that Norwood had previously paid him on one occasion. The government gave the defense both of those statements – almost three decades ago.”
Seth Williams said the case went through every court, including the United States Supreme Court. The defendant’s death sentence was upheld every time.
Terrance Williams’ troubles 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, with the intention of taking his money. They drove to a cemetery where they 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 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.
The defendant’s attorney, Shawn Nolan praised the high court’s decision to uphold Sarmina’s ruling.
“We are extremely pleased that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has affirmed Judge Sarmina’s grant of a stay of execution and want to thank everyone supporting the effort to stop this execution,” said Nolan. “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has wisely decided to consider all of the evidence before making a final decision and we look forward to presenting our case in the coming months. After hearing multiple days of testimony and careful consideration of all the records, Judge Sarmina granted a stay of execution and found that the prosecution withheld critical evidence from the jury. As the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has now confirmed, Judge Sarmina’s grant of a stay was factually and legally sound. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office should stop its pursuit to execute Terry Williams.”