Terry Williams (condemned prisoner)

Terrance "Terry" Williams (born 1966 in Pennsylvania) is a prisoner who was sentenced to death for a murder committed at the age of 18. He was also convicted and sentenced to 27 years for a third-degree murder he committed six months earlier. He was scheduled to be executed on October 3, 2012, but on September 28th, 2012 a Philadelphia judge, Teresa Sarmina, granted a stay of execution.[1] His death sentence was overturned June 9, 2016 by the US Supreme Court via Williams v. Pennsylvania, and he was resentenced to life imprisonment without parole.[2]

Terrance Williams
Conviction(s)Third-degree murder (1984)
First-degree murder (1984)
Criminal penalty27 years (third-degree-murder)
death penalty, commuted to life imprisonment without parole (first degree murder)

Murders of Hamilton and Norwood

In January, 1984, Williams stabbed to death Herbert Hamilton, a 50-year-old resident of West Philadelphia. Williams was a 17-year-old at the time of the murder. Williams lured Hamilton to bed, then stabbed him over 20 times and beat him with a baseball bat.[3]

As cited from court records: "Williams retrieved a nearby baseball bat, chased after [Herbert] Hamilton, and beat him with the bat until Hamilton was bloody and severely wounded. Williams then recovered the butcher knife and stabbed Hamilton approximately twenty times--twice in the head, ten times in the back, once in the neck, four times in the chest, and once each in the abdomen, arm, and thumb. Finally, Williams drove the butcher knife through the back of Hamilton's neck until it protruded through the other side. He then doused Hamilton's body with kerosene and unsuccessfully attempted to set fire to it."[4]

Six months later, Williams, then 18, and Marc Draper convinced Amos Norwood to go to a cemetery, where they beat him to death with a tire iron and then hid the body behind some tombstones. Williams later returned and set the body on fire.[5] Williams took Norwood's car, along with cash and credit cards he stole from the body, and drove to Atlantic City with Draper and Ronald Rucker.

Again citing from court records: "Williams exited the vehicle, approached Draper, and said quietly, "Play it off like you going home, like you want a ride home, and we gonna take some money." Draper understood Williams to be proposing a robbery. The two then got inside Norwood's automobile and Draper began to provide false directions to his "home." In reality, Draper's directions led Norwood to a secluded area adjacent to the Ivy Hill Cemetery. Once there, Draper reached over the backseat, grabbed Norwood from behind and ordered him "to be quiet and get out of the car." Norwood stopped the vehicle and complied.

Williams and Draper then led Norwood into the cemetery and ordered him to lie facedown near a tombstone. A quick search of Norwood's person revealed $20 hidden in his sock. At this point, Norwood began to plead for his life. The two assailants responded by removing Norwood's clothing and tying him up; Norwood's hands were bound behind his back with his shirt, his legs were bound together with his pants, and his socks were forcefully jammed into his mouth. Once Norwood was bound, Williams said to Draper, "Wait, I'm going to the car. We're getting ready to do something." And he walked off.

Williams returned with a tire iron and a socket wrench, the latter of which he gave to Draper. Draper, seemingly having second thoughts, urged Williams to leave. Williams replied, "I know what I'm doin, I know what I'm doin. Don't worry about it, I know what I'm doin." He then began battering Norwood's head with the tire iron. When he noticed that Draper was frozen in place, Williams said, "Man, you with me[?] We got to do this together." Draper then sprung into action himself, striking Norwood repeatedly with the socket wrench. This violent scene continued until Norwood lay motionless and dead."[6]

Arrest and trial

After the use of Norwood's calling card led police to Rucker, who in turn implicated Williams and Draper.[5] Draper was arrested on July 20, 1984. During questioning, he gave a full confession to the police.[5] A search was conducted of Williams residence, and Norwood's jacket was found. Williams surrendered to the police on July 23, 1984 and although Draper was in protective custody, was able to send several letters urging Draper to change his story. Draper instead turned the letters over to the police.[5]

Williams was convicted of third-degree murder in the death of Hamilton and was sentenced to 27 years, and was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Norwood and sentenced to death.[3]

Petition for commutation

A petition for commutation of his sentence by the Governor of Pennsylvania has been signed by nearly 150 former judges and prosecutors, child and health specialists, and former jurors at his trial. Williams, a victim of sexual abuse during his childhood, killed two of his alleged rapists. At his trials, the rapes were not mentioned. Jurors who signed the petition in September 2012 indicated that if they had been aware of the facts, they would not have requested the death penalty, but life in prison.[7] The widow of Amos Norwood, the second person killed by Williams, also argued for a commutation of the sentence.[8] On September 13, a bipartisan group, led by State Senator Daylin Leach, a Montgomery County Democrat, and State Senator Stewart Greenleaf, a Montgomery County Republican, asked Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Corbett, for clemency.[9]

Barbara Harris, the daughter of Amos Norwood disagrees. She says it's time for Williams' sentence to be carried out.

"Abolishing the Death Penalty is a good thing. Refusing Terrance Williams the RIGHT TO DIE is not!!!" her statement says. "No more extensions, serve justice to Williams now before he destroys another family."[10]

In popular culture

  • Terry's case was covered by the HLN series Death Row Stories episode "Predator or Prey?" which covered both the murder and the overturning of Terry's death sentence.[11]

Notes and references

  1. Terry Williams, Facing Death for Killing Alleged Abuser, Granted Stay of Execution The Huffington Post
  2. "October Term, 2015 : Syllabus" (PDF). Supremecourt.gov. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  3. Dean, Mensah M. (12 September 2012). "Phila. man, 46, could be executed Oct. 3". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  4. Williams v. Beard, 637 F.3d 195, 199 (3d Cir. 2011).
  5. Commonwealth v. Williams, 570 A.2d 75 (Penn. 1990).
  6. Williams v. Beard, 637 F.3d 200-201 (3d Cir. 2011).
  7. "Large pétition pour obtenir la grâce d'un condamné à mort en Pennsylvanie". Huffington Post (Quebec). 6 September 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  8. Omer, Sevil (6 September 2012). "Widow asks Pennsylvania governor not to execute husband's killer". Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  9. "Pa. legislative panel asks for moratorium on executions". Philadelphia Inquirer. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  10. "'Terrance Williams actions warrant death,' victim's daughter says". PennLive. 31 March 2015. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  11. "Predator or Prey". Death Row Stories. Season 5. Episode 3. 26 April 2020. CNN. HLN. Retrieved 2 May 2020.