The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold a stay of execution for Terrance Williams doesn’t mean the convicted murderer is off death row. But lawyers aren’t yet sure when or if a new date will be set to put Williams to death.
Lawyers were racing the clock in the case of Williams the minute his death warrant was signed in early August, setting an October third execution.
A Philadelphia judge halted a death by lethal injection sentence because believing evidence that Williams was sexually abused as a teen was suppressed in the trial that led to him receiving the death penalty.
The state Supreme Court then rejected the prosecution's appeal to overturn the stay.
Victor Abreu, one of Williams' attorneys, said the court must still decide whether to uphold the lower court’s ruling that Williams must receive a new sentencing hearing.
“If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturns the grant of a new sentencing hearing, that could be a moment that would trigger a new [execution] warrant as well,” said Abreu. “And the stay is vacated, that could trigger a new warrant as well.”
Lawyers are awaiting an order from the state’s high court to submit summaries of their arguments, which will give them some idea of the new timeline of the case.
Abreu said a sentencing hearing is a form of a trial.
“Witnesses are called and presented for each side, and then the jury is asked to deliberate between aggravating and mitigating circumstances and then decide between a sentence of life without parole or death.”
Williams was convicted for the 1984 murder of a man his lawyers say sexually abused him. The judge who stopped Williams' execution says he should get a new sentence from a jury that is presented with evidence of the abuse.