Advocates plead for clemency in looming execution of Terrance Williams


“Terry’s acts of violence have, alas, an explanation of the worst sort: enveloped by anger and self-hatred, Terry lashed out and killed two of the men who sexually abused him and caused him so much pain.”

By Joseph A. Slobodzian

Inquirer Staff Writer

Terrance Williams is scheduled to die Oct. 3. He killed a man in 1985, soon after turning 18.
 
Terrance Williams is scheduled to die Oct. 3. He killed a man in 1985, soon after turning 18.

With less than a month before condemned murderer Terrance Williams is scheduled to die by lethal injection, his advocates on Thursday chose an option not used in a half-century: a plea for clemency from the governor.

Lawyers for Williams, 46, formerly of Philadelphia, filed the petition asking Gov. Corbett and the state Board of Pardons to stop Williams’ Oct. 3 execution and commute his sentence to life in prison without parole.

A broad-based group of lawyers and former judges, child advocates, and religious figures – including the widow of the man Williams killed in 1984 – urged that his life be spared for a crime committed three months after he turned 18, the minimum age for someone to be sentenced to death in the United States.

Moreover, the petition says, five members of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury that condemned Williams for the murder of Amos Norwood have said they would have opted for life in prison had they heard mitigating evidence about Williams’ horrific childhood of sexual abuse by a neighbor, a teacher, and Norwood himself.

“The evidence of abuse in this case is clear,” reads a letter of support signed by 26 child advocates and experts in sexual abuse. “There can be no doubt that Terry was repeatedly and violently abused and exploited as a child and teenager by manipulative older men.

“Terry’s acts of violence have, alas, an explanation of the worst sort: enveloped by anger and self-hatred, Terry lashed out and killed two of the men who sexually abused him and caused him so much pain.”

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