DemocracyNow! video discussion of the new evidence in the Terry Williams case. Williams was scheduled to be executed on October 3, 2012.
A state judge granted a stay of execution on Friday for Terry Williams, a death row inmate facing lethal injection in just five days, after ruling that prosecutors hid crucial mitigating evidence from defense attorneys before his trial nearly 30 years ago.
Williams faced death for killing Amos Norwood, a 51-year-old chemist, in Philadelphia in 1984. What the jury in that case did not know is that Norwood had sexually abused Williams and had allegedly violently raped him the night before. Furthermore, Williams had suffered years of physical and sexual abuse by older males. Most recently, evidence has emerged that prosecutors tried to make robbery seem like the motive for the murder, even though Williams’ co-defendant knew about the sexual abuse.
At trial, the lead prosecutor called Norwood an "innocent man" and told jurors that Williams committed the murder "for no other reason than that a kind man gave him a ride home." Williams was three months past his 18th birthday at the time of the killing.
Both accomplice Marc Draper, a policeman's son, and the trial prosecutor, Andrea Foulkes, gave new testimony before Sarmina in recent days. Draper said that he was promised a chance at parole if he told jurors the Norwood slaying was a robbery, not a sex-related crime.
He testified accordingly, but is serving a life term for felony murder. He said he did not understand that lifers in Pennsylvania are never eligible for parole.
Several Norwood jurors said they also misunderstood that when they sentenced Williams to death. Five jurors now support his bid for clemency, as does Norwood's widow.
Foulkes denied promising Draper a shorter sentence, or withholding evidence from jurors or the defense.
Under Saramina's ruling, Williams will get a new hearing before a jury to determine whether he should be executed or not. The judge did not overturn Williams' guilty verdict in the Norwood murder. If Williams prevails in court, he will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Lawyers with the Federal Community Defenders Office in Philadelphia said the sex-abuse evidence might have steered the jury toward a life sentence, if not a different verdict on guilt.
Then Philadelphia District Attorney Ronald Castille -- who signed off on Williams' death penalty case -- now serves as chief justice of the state Supreme Court, which may now ultimately decide Williams' fate.