Philadelphia judge calls for more evidence in bid for execution stay

Terrance "Terry" Williams faces an Oct. 3 execution date.
Terrance "Terry" Williams faces an Oct. 3 execution date.
Posted: September 12, 2012

Condemned killer Terrance "Terry" Williams was back in Philadelphia on Monday, sitting quietly, hands and feet shackled, as lawyers tried to persuade a Philadelphia judge to block his Oct. 3 execution.

Sounding skeptical, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina listened to two hours of vigorous argument by Williams' lawyers and prosecutors.

Sarmina then gave Williams' team until Friday to supplement their claim of newly discovered evidence that Williams killed Amos Norwood in 1984 after years of sexual abuse - not to rob him.

Sarmina told defense attorneys Billy Nolas and Shawn Nolan she considered their new evidence - a 2012 statement by Marc Draper, Williams' confessed accomplice - too vague for a late plea to stay the execution.

"What's the basis of Draper's knowledge?" asked Sarmina. "That doesn't make it so just because someone says it."

Deputy District Attorney Ronald Eisenberg told Sarmina that nothing in Williams' petition was new and that his claims of sexual abuse had been rejected by state and federal appeals courts.

Eisenberg called the petition a "massive public relations campaign" to fuel Williams' effort to persuade the pardons board and Gov. Corbett to grant clemency.

In a separate proceeding, Williams' attorneys on Thursday filed a clemency petition with the pardons board asking it to commute the death sentence to life in prison without chance of parole.

The clemency petition was signed by more than 160 supporters, including former judges and prosecutors, child advocates, and sexual-abuse experts - and Norwood's widow, Mamie Norwood, 75.

On Monday, Philadelphia's Roman Catholic archbishop, Charles J. Chaput, reiterated his support for clemency, writing: "Terrance Williams deserves punishment. No one disputes that. But he doesn't need to die to satisfy justice."

The pardons board will privately interview Williams on Thursday and hold a public hearing Monday in Harrisburg. The five-member board must unanimously recommend clemency for Corbett to consider the nonbinding recommendation.

Corbett signed Williams' death warrant Aug. 9 in what would be the state's first execution since 1999.

At issue before Sarmina is a sworn Jan. 9 statement by Draper, 46, who pleaded guilty to participating in Norwood's killing and became the key prosecution witness against Williams at his 1986 trial.

Draper, serving life for Norwood's killing, testified that Norwood was killed in a robbery, and authorities said Williams used Norwood's credit cards to gamble at an Atlantic City casino.

Williams had just turned 18 and was a Cheyney University freshman when he was arrested. Norwood was last seen leaving his Mount Airy home June 11, 1984, to work at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Germantown.

Four days later, a boy walking his dog found Norwood's charred body propped against a gravestone in Ivy Hill Cemetery in West Oak Lane. He had been beaten to death with a tire iron.

A month later, police charged Draper, 18, the son of a police Civil Affairs Unit officer, who implicated Williams.

In his recantation, Draper said he told homicide detectives in 1984 that Williams and Norwood had a sexual relationship and Williams killed Norwood in a rage over the abuse.

Nolas said Draper now says detectives "didn't want to hear about the homosexuality. They wanted it to be a robbery."

Draper also told detectives Williams admitted to him that on Jan. 26, 1984, he had stabbed to death Herbert Hamilton, 50, after Hamilton had made sexual advances.

Nolas told Sarmina that had the jury that condemned Williams known of Draper's original statement to detectives, it would have returned the same verdict as the jury in the Hamilton case.

Williams was found guilty of third-degree murder in Hamilton's killing. Draper was also a key witness in that case and told of Williams' self-defense claim.


Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian

at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @joeslobo.

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