|Terry Williams at the age of 17.|
It’s been 13 years since anyone was executed in Pennsylvania. In the 1990s, three men voluntarily ended their appeals to accept death. It has been 50 years since anyone was involuntarily executed in the commonwealth. This, despite a bursting death row with more than 200 people, the fourth-largest death row in the country.
Terrance “Terry” Williams is at risk of being the first person executed against his will in Pennsylvania since John Kennedy was president.
The basic facts of Terry’s case are not in dispute. In 1984, just a few months after his 18th birthday, he killed Amos Norwood in Philadelphia. Less than a year earlier, while he was still 17, Terry killed another man, Herbert Hamilton.
But there were key facts in Terry’s case that the jury never heard, facts that may have convinced the jury to spare his life. Terry had been a victim of repeated sexual assault since the age of six, and his two victims had been abusing him. His trial attorney never investigated these facts, so the jury never heard them.
This case was and is a tragedy in every sense. Several jurors recently stated that they would have ruled for a life-without-parole sentence for Terry if they had known these facts. Some jurors have also said that they opted for death because they mistakenly believed that a life sentence would afford Terry a parole opportunity. Death and life-without-parole have been the only sentencing options for first degree homicide in Pennsylvania since the 1920s.
Terry’s appeals options are exhausted, and his execution is scheduled for October 3. His attorneys are now asking the pardons board and Governor Corbett to commute Terry’s sentence to life-without-parole. To be successful in that arena, the pardons board must first unanimously recommend a commutation. Governor Corbett must then agree and grant the commutation.
Support for commutation is strong and broad. Supporters include Norwood’s widow, several jurors, 22 former prosecutors and judges, 34 law professors, 40 mental health experts, and more than three dozen faith leaders, including the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput.
How can you help? Contact Governor Corbett directly and ask him to support clemency for Terry Williams. Sign the petition in support of clemency that currently has nearly 14,000 signatures. And learn more about the case at a website dedicated to Terry’s plea for clemency.
Take action. A man’s life depends on it.