Pa. Supreme Court Spares Man From Execution

  • October 04, 2012
  • By Jim Malewitz

Terrance Williams wasn't executed on Wednesday after all. 

In a two-sentence order released hours before the Philadelphia man's originally scheduled death by lethal injection, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied the request of state prosecutors to go ahead with the execution, punishment for robbing and murdering Amos Norwood 26 years ago.

The execution would have been just the fourth in Pennsylvania since 1978, coming as the state is reviewing the death penalty's effectiveness.

The Supreme Court will take more time to review a lower court's ruling that prosecutors withheld key evidence supporting the 46-year-old Williams' claim that Norwood had sexually abused him over the course of several years, a possibility that has led thousands of people to campaign for his clemency. 

In a separate case, Williams was convicted of third-degree murder in the killing of another man, shown to be a pedophile, who tried to force Williams to have sex.  

In her ruling last week, Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said prosecutors had suppressed evidence showing Norwood had sexual relationships with other teenage boys.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has wisely decided to consider all of the evidence before making a final decision and we look forward to presenting our case in the coming months,” Shawn Nolan, Williams' lawyer said in a statement. “The time has now come for them to heed the call from the victim's widow, jurors, child advocates, victim's rights advocates, and over 380,000 people who do not want Terry executed,” he said.

The Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Committee on Capital Punishment, a bipartisan group of lawmakers studying the effectiveness of the state's death penalty, was among those calling for the execution to be halted. The group, established by a 2011 law, says an execution would “greatly undermine” the legislative intent of the study.

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