Terry Williams, the first prisoner slated to be killed in Pennsylvania in more than 50 years, has been granted a rare hearing so a judge can decide whether prosecutors withheld key pieces of evidence in his trial more than 30 years ago.
Williams was just 18 when he was convicted in the grisly killings of two men, but what prosecutors held back from the jury could have made a difference in his sentencing, his attorney says — the men had been sexually abusing Williams for years.
Attorneys for Terry Williams, 46, say that he should be given life in prison rather than be sentenced to die for killing a man who sexually abused him and other teenage boys, The Huffington Post reported.
Terry Williams’ alleged abuser, 56-year-old Amos Norwood, was a chemist and local church volunteer. Police found his body stabbed, bludgeoned and partially burned in a Philadlphia cemetery in June 1984. Police used the man’s stolen credit cards to track down Williams and Mark Draper, who testified against Williams.
Police tried to paint the killing as a robbery gone wrong, but Terry Williams’ attorneys now say the killing was motivated by years of rage built up against Norwood, who Williams said raped him since he was 13.
The killing was particularly shocking because Williams, a college freshman, was a star high school quarterback and academically gifted student. Williams was just three months past his 18th birthday at the time of the killing, making him just eligible for the death penalty.
Jurors were never able to hear that Williams had alleged abuse against Norwood, or that Norwood was implicated in the sexual abuse of other young boys at his church, The Huffington Post noted.
After he was arrested for Norwood’s murder, Williams was charged and convicted for stabbing another man to death. That man, later identified as a longtime sexual predator of teenagers, was found in a room scattered with Polaroid pictures of naked teenage boys.
Though state and federal appellate courts found that Williams’ attorney in the Norwood case was negligent in not presenting evidence of abuse at trial, his appeal was rejected anyway because the courts believed that neglect didn’t affect the outcome of the case.
A number of high-profile sexual abuse cases, including the Penn State scandal and abuse convictions of Jerry Sandusky, have made the topic a hot button issue in Pennsylvania, The Huffington Post noted.
“If any state should know what sexual trauma does to somebody, it’s Pennsylvania,” said Marc Bookman, executive director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, an anti-death penalty group. “And this is the person that gets executed?”
Many people across the US and internationally have joined the crusade to spare Terry Williams from execution, The Daily Mail noted. On a website pleading for Williams’ clemency, supporters wrote: “The jury did not hear… both of the men had sexually abused Terry, and both crimes directly related to Terry’s history of sexual abuse by older males, which began when he was six years old.”
Even Norwood’s family has spoke out for Terry Williams. His widow, Mamie Norwood, asked for clemency for Williams.