In August, Governor Tom Corbett signed Pennsylvania’s first death warrant in 13 years. Terrence Williams was sentenced to death for the 1984 killing of Amos Norwood during what the prosecution claimed was a botched robbery. You can read about the death warrant and the case in detail at our blog post here. This morning, The Honorable M. Teresa Sarmina overturned the death sentence, cancelling Williams’ October 3 execution.
Accusing the prosecutors of “gamesmanship”, Sarmina concluded that valuable information was withheld from the jury that would have resulted in them not sentencing Williams to death. Williams and his attorney, Shawn Nolan, maintain that Amos Norwood sexually abused him since he was 13, and that the killing happened as a result of years of unimaginable abuse. New evidence recently emerged that strongly suggests that the prosecution had full knowledge of Williams’ abuse, evidence that the jury did not get to hear. Andrea Foulkes, the Assistant District Attorney who prosecuted Williams, asserts that the evidence was merely “bits and pieces”. However, Foulkes herself testified that she had a suspicion that Norwood sexually abused Williams, and in fact had statements relevant to that conclusion in her file. During the initial murder trial, the defense was given what Sarmina calls “sanitized statements” from Norwood’s widow and minister, portraying him to be a kind and very religious man.
In addition to this revelation, it has also been learned that the prosecution’s key witness and Williams’ alleged accomplice, Marc Draper, was bribed to testify that Norwood was killed in a robbery. In January, Draper recanted his testimony, saying that Foulkes offered him a favorable recommendation to the state parole board in exchange for his testimony. Despite his testimony, Draper was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Foulkes condemned his recantation as a lie.
At this point, the prosecution has two options if it still wants to push for the death penalty. The prosecution may conduct a new penalty phase and ask for the death penalty again, or it may file an emergency appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reinstate the execution. Williams’ attorney, satisfied with their victory, said that it’s “time for the District Attorney’s office to end the appeals.”
Update: DA Seth Williams has announced that the District Attorney’s Office is filing an immediate appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
If you have been charged with homicide or assault, please contact a Pennsylvania Criminal Lawyer at Fairlie & Lippy to discuss your case.