The state Supreme Court has denied prosecutors’ request to lift a stay of execution for condemned killer Terrance Williams of Philadelphia. Late last week Philadelphia Judge M. Teresa Sarmina blocked the scheduled October 3rd execution and ordered a new sentencing hearing in light of new evidence concerning the way prosecutors handled Williams’ 1986 murder trial. Defense attorneys claim that Williams’ victims had been sexually abusing him. This would have been Pennsylvania’s first execution since 1999, and Williams would have been the first person executed against his will in the state since the death penalty was reinstated 34-years ago.
A Philadelphia judge has halted Wednesday’s scheduled execution of death row inmate Terrance Williams and granted him a new sentencing hearing. But prosecutors vow to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The judge not only granted a stay of execution, she vacated the death sentence, which grants Williams a new penalty phase. In the ruling, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina was critical of the way the prosecution handled the original trial in the 1984 murder that put Williams on death row. The prosecution has denied any wrongdoing.
Williams still has a request for clemency pending before the state Pardons Board. The board voted after a hearing on Thursday to take the request under advisement.
On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul update you on the stay of execution issued Friday for convicted killer Terrance Williams, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection at Rockview State Prison on Wednesday of the coming week. Former Radio PA Roundtable host Robert Lang (now of WBAL radio in Baltimore) joins the discussion and provides insight as a media witness to three executions in his career.
Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.
Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/witfaudio/radiopa/Roundtable09-28-12.mp3]
Pennsylvania’s five-member Board of Pardons voted 4 – 1 this morning to hear new arguments in the clemency application of a condemned killer from Philadelphia. The hearing has concluded and the case has been taken under advisement.
The board’s recommendation must be unanimous in order for the governor to be able to commute Terrance Williams’ sentence to life in prison without parole. “With regard to a pardon or commutation, the governor at this point in time has no authority,” says Executive Deputy General Counsel Linda Hoffa.
The board previously voted 3 – 2 for clemency last week.
The only unilateral authority the governor has is to issue a temporary reprieve, but Hoffa says case law calls for it to be tied to a pending proceeding. “It should not be open-ended and vague,” Hoffa explained to reporters on Wednesday.
46-year-old Terrance “Terry” Williams was convicted in the beating death of Amos Norwood in 1986, the death penalty was imposed in 1987, and his appeals have been exhausted.
However, Williams’ attorneys are now arguing that their client had been sexually abused by the man he murdered. A Philadelphia judge has been hearing the new evidence, and is scheduled to rule on a stay of execution tomorrow.
For now, Williams is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at State Correctional Institution at Rockview on October 3rd. If it is carried out it would be the state’s first execution since 1999, and the first execution involving a prisoner who had not given up his right to appeal since 1962.
As major decisions loom in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, Williams remains locked up on the other end of the state, at SCI Greene.
Pennsylvania may issue its first lethal injection in 13 years next week. Condemned killer Terrance Williams is scheduled to be executed at Rockview State Prison in Centre County at 7:00pm on October 3rd. Williams was convicted for two murders in the 1980s and has exhausted most of his appeals.
A stay or temporary reprieve is still possible before Wednesday’s scheduled execution, either from the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, which is meeting today, or from a Philadelphia judge who is currently considering new information in the case and could issue a stay on Friday.
Pennsylvania has not executed a death row inmate since “House of Horrors” killer Gary Heidnik was put to death in 1999. He is one of only three inmates to receive a lethal injection since the death penalty was reinstated in Pennsylvania in 1978. Leon Moser and Keith Zettlemoyer were also put to death in PA in 1995, but all three had waived their rights to certain appeals. Williams would be the first person executed against his will since the reinstatement 34 years ago.
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