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August 27, 2014, 9:05 pm

Clemency hearing held to halt execution date

Terrance Williams scheduled to die October 3


A clemency hearing was held yesterday for Terrance Williams, a man who is scheduled for execution on Oct. 3 for two murders committed back in 1984 when he was 17 years old.

Among those calling for a stay of execution in the case is Mamie Norwood, widow of Amos Norwood, who Williams beat to death with a tire iron. Norwood said in a letter dated January 2012 that after a great deal of prayer, she is convinced that the life of her husband’s killer should be spared. If the execution goes as planned, it would make Williams the first person executed in Pennsylvania since notorious torture killer Gary Heidnik was put to death in 1999.

“I was angry and resentful toward Mr. Williams for many years,” she wrote. “But then several years ago, I accepted that Amos was not coming back. I knew I had to find a way to heal and live a peaceful and happy life. I realized that the only way I could do that was to forgive Terry Williams for what he did. Several years ago, after much prayer and self-reflection, I found the strength and courage to forgive Terry Williams for what he did. I do not wish to see Terry Williams executed. His execution would go against my Christian faith.”

Terry Williams murdered Amos Norwood, 56, with a tire iron inside a Mt. Airy cemetery in 1984. He also murdered a second man, Herbert Hamilton, 50. His defense is arguing that the murders were precipitated by Williams’ years of childhood sexual and physical abuse and are mitigating circumstances.

In the petition for executive clemency, basically requesting Governor Tom Corbett to commute the death sentence to life in prison, his attorneys argue that the jury which convicted Williams never heard the circumstances surrounding the abuse he suffered. It is also argued that Norwood and Hamilton were two of Williams’ sexual abusers. The petition states that Williams suffered “years of physical and emotional abuse, neglect and abandonment” and the “unrelenting abuse and neglect made Terry an easy target for sexual predators. Two of those alleged sexual predators, the petition states, were Norwood and Hamilton, who allegedly “preyed on teenage boys” offering money, clothes and food in exchange for sex.

On June 11, 1984, Williams and Marc Draper were gambling on a street corner and lost their money. According to investigators, Williams left and later returned with ten dollars that he allegedly got from Norwood. Later Norwood drove by and Williams and Draper went with him, with the intention of taking his money. They drove to a cemetery, where they forced Norwood out, bound and gagged him, robbed him and then beat him to death with a tire iron and a wrench. Later on, Williams returned and burned the body. Williams and Draper were arrested two months later. Draper made a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to second degree murder and criminal conspiracy. Williams was found guilty of first degree murder, robbery and conspiracy on February 3, 1986.

But the murder of Norwood was an expression of Williams’ dark side, the Mr. Hyde, to borrow the term from his last appeal that was argued from Dec. 7, 2010 to March 9, 2011. Two earlier, extremely violent crimes were used as aggravating circumstances during his trial to secure the death penalty.

Judge D. Brooks Smith heard arguments from Williams’ last appeal and upheld the death sentence. Although Williams graduated from Germantown High, was an award-winning athlete and a student at Cheyney University, there was a darker side to his nature, Judge Smith wrote. After committing several other crimes, in January 1984, Williams allegedly murdered Hamilton by beating him with a baseball bat and then stabbing him more than twenty times with a butcher knife. Hamilton had also been accused of sexually abusing Williams.

“Williams drove the butcher knife through the back of Hamilton's neck until it protruded through the other side,” Judge Smith said. “He then doused Hamilton's body with kerosene and unsuccessfully attempted to set fire to it. When police officers later entered the apartment, they found Hamilton's kerosene-soaked body with the knife jammed through his neck; on the bathroom mirror, the phrase ‘I loved you’ was scrawled in toothpaste. Williams was then seventeen.”

Attorneys for the prosecution counter argue that Williams’ assertion that he was sexually abused by the victims wasn’t raised until he had lost his appeals.