PHILADELPHIA -- Eight days before the scheduled execution of death-row inmate Terrance Williams, his attorneys asked a judge on Tuesday to throw out the sentence on the grounds that prosecutors concealed evidence he had been sexually abused by the man he murdered.
The claim that Williams had been abused by Amos Norwood, the man he and another teenager beat to death in a Philadelphia cemetery in 1984, is not new. But attorneys for Williams have attempted for three days to persuade Judge M. Teresa Sarmina of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas that new evidence shows prosecutors kept to themselves information that led them to believe Williams acted for reasons far more personal than robbery.
Faced with evidence of abuse, they argued, a jury would not have sentenced him to death.
"They're young boys with grown men," attorney Billy Nolas said. "It's awful, and this jury should have known it was awful.
Judge Sarmina said she would render her opinion Friday, one day after the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons meets in Harrisburg to decide if it will reconsider its vote against recommending the governor grant clemency.
On Thursday and again Monday, Judge Sarmina heard testimony from the prosecutor and co-defendant in the 1986 trial that yielded the death sentence. Marc Draper, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for his part in the crime, testified that a police interviewer encouraged him to attribute the murder to robbery rather than sexual involvement of Williams and Norwood. After years of anger at his own life sentence, Draper said he agreed to speak because he learned Williams had exhausted his appeals and faced execution.
"I knew if Williams was executed based on my testimony prior to this, it would be wrong," he said. "It wasn't about a robbery. It was about a homosexual relationship."
Andrea Foulkes, who tried the case, told the court she had searched for a sexual link between Norwood and Williams but was unable to find evidence.
"Did I suspect there was a sexual connection between them?" Ms. Foulkes said. "Yes, I did. But I had no proof that had occurred."
The proximity of the Oct. 3 execution date was evident late Tuesday morning when Deputy District Attorney Ronald Eisenberg protested a motion by the attorneys for Williams.
"It's now 11:30," he said. "Every hour of delay only benefits the defendant in their goal."
The decision by Judge Sarmina can be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.state
Karen Langley: email@example.com or 1-717-787-2141.