Pennsylvania Set to Execute Prisoner who Killed Man Who Sexually Abused Him

Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Terrance "Terry" Williams

Terrance “Terry” Williams faces execution next month in Pennsylvania for the murder of the man who sexually abused him when he was a teenager.


Supporters have pleaded with Republican Governor Tom Corbett to spare Williams, who was also sexually abused by a teacher and another boy when he was just six years old.


More than 280,000 individuals, including former judges, religious leaders, mental health professionals and children’s advocates, have signed a petition urging Corbett and the Board of Pardons to commute Williams’ sentence to life without parole. Mamie Norwood, the 75-year-old widow of Amos Norwood, the man Williams beat to death in 1984, has also asked for clemency for Williams. “I do not wish to see Terry Williams executed,” she wrote to the Board of Pardons. “His execution would go against my Christian faith and my belief system.”


During Williams’ trial, the jury was not informed about his history of sexual abuse or of the fact the Norwood himself had raped Williams the night before the killing. Five of the jurors have signed affidavits stating that they would not have voted for the death penalty had they known.


At the time of the murder, Amos Norwood was the director of the Youth Theater Fellowship and in charge of the altar boys at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. He had been paying 17-year-old Williams to have sex.


On Monday the Board of Pardons rejected Williams’ plea for clemency. The five-member board voted 3-2 in favor of clemency, but a state law required a unanimous vote. Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley voted against clemency, as did corrections expert Harris Gubernick. The three votes in favor were cast by Attorney General Linda L. Kelly; victim representative Louise B. Williams; and psychologist Russell A. Walsh.


If the October 3 execution takes place, it would be the first time in 50 years that the state has involuntarily put to death a convicted murderer. Pennsylvania has executed only three people since reinstating capital punishment and all of them asked for death after exhausting their appeals.

-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Will Pennsylvania Execute a Man Who Killed His Abusers? (by Liliana Segura, The Nation)

A Push for Clemency as an Execution Nears (by Jon Hurdle, New York Times)

Killer Loses Bid for Clemency (by Joseph A. Slobodzian, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Petition for Executive Clemency (pdf)

Terry Williams

Affidavit (Terry Williams Clemency) (pdf)


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