Convicted murderer Terrance Williams has been denied a request for clemency and his scheduled October third execution remains on track. Prosecutors say it’s remarkable that, despite many reviews in court, no judge has overturned a death penalty decision for Terrance Williams. He was sentenced to death for a 1984 murder he committed as an 18-year-old.
Three members of the five-person Board of Pardons still voted for a life without parole sentence for Williams instead. But it’s not enough. A unanimous vote is required to send a clemency recommendation to the governor, noted Williams' lawyer, Shawn Nolan.
“I have to say that’s frustrating. The fact that we did get three votes was gratifying,” said Nolan. “Unfortunately, the law was changed some time ago, that it has to be unanimous.”
Before 1997, the Board of Pardons could recommend the governor to overturn a death warrant if clemency received a majority vote. Defense attorneys will now turn their attention to an emergency hearing scheduled for Thursday in Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas. They’re asking for a stay of execution, arguing new testimony supports claims from Williams the two men he killed as an 18-year-old in 1984 had sexually abused him for years, and prosecutors kept evidence of that abuse out of court.
The defense said he should not be executed because his crimes were the acts of a young man in pain. They made repeated references to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case in which commonwealth attorneys argued on behalf of children.
But Tom Dolgenos, with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, says there’s a lot to distinguish the Sandusky case from that of Terrance Williams.
“He is a murderer and now an admitted murderer. He didn’t admit it until about a month ago. But at this point, it serves his interest and there just isn’t much evidence other than hearsay,” said Dolgenos. “In fact there’s no evidence other than hearsay that the abuse that he talks about actually occurred.”
Williams would be the first man the state has put to death in more than a decade.