Philadelphia judge halts Terrance Williams’ execution
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012, 10:46 AM Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012, 11:54 AM
A Philadelphia judge this morning halted the first execution in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Terrance “Terry” Williams is on death row for killing two men, a church deacon and high school sports booster, as a teenager. Williams, 46, now says both men were sexually abusing him. And his lawyers say prosecutors hid that evidence from Williams’ lawyer and the jury that sentenced him to death.
Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina took two days of new testimony from the trial prosecutors and an accomplice, then and this morning ruled to stay Williams’ execution, citing government suppression of evidence.
She said: “Evidence has plainly been suppressed” and that prosecutor Andrea Foulkes was “playing fast and loose.” Sarmina said Foulkes “had no problem disregarding her ethical obligations” in an attempt to win.
The judge’s ruling is expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the state Board of Pardons is separately considering a clemency petition but was waiting Sarmina’s decision.
Williams had been scheduled to be executed Wednesday for the 1984 beating death of Amos Norwood in a Philadelphia cemetery. The defense is not challenging his guilt, but asking that he remain in prison on his life sentence. They contend that Williams had been sexually abused from the time he was a child, and that he was being abused by Norwood at the time of the murder.
The Board of Pardons had previously voted 3-2 in favor of granting clemency, but it requires a unanimous vote to forward a clemency request to the governor.
Sarmina had heard a prosecution witness testify that cops and prosecutors coached him to emphasize robbery as the motive in the crime rather than sex issues, even though he had told them at the beginning that the crime was the result of the “relationship” between Norwood and Williams.
When the jury considered the death penalty, prosecutors said Williams killed Norwood for no other reason than he was a kind man willing to give Williams a ride in his car.
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