Terrance Williams, 46, was granted a stay of execution and a new sentencing hearing by a Pennsylvania judge on Friday, reports the New York Times. He was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday for killing the man who allegedly molested him as a minor.
Judge M. Teresa Sarmina of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas granted Williams the new hearing and stay because of new evidence stemming from his 1986 conviction for beating Amos Norwood to death in 1984. Williams was 18-year-old at the time he killed Norwood, then aged 56.
However, when the jury voted to sentence Williams to death, prosecutors withheld evidence that claims Norwood molested Williams since he was 13-years-old, the judge ruled. They also withheld evidence revealing that Norwood had homosexual relations with boys, including Williams. The judge ruled that, had the jury known of that evidence, they could have possibly voted for a penalty other than death.
The Times has more:
Defense lawyers contended that newly discovered evidence of Mr. Norwood’s sexual orientation supported their claim that Mr. Williams, who was 18 at the time, killed him because Mr. Norwood, who was 56, had abused him from the age of 13, and not because of a robbery, as prosecutors argued at the trial.
The new evidence — which was given to defense lawyers for the first time last weekend after 28 years in police files — was sufficient to demand a stay and a new sentencing but not a new trial, the judge said.
“This court is granting a stay of execution and this court is granting a new penalty phase,” the judge said at the conclusion of her 45-minute statement from the bench.
Unless the State Supreme Court overturns Judge Sarmina’s stay of execution before Wednesday, Mr. Williams will not be put to death that day, said Ronald Eisenberg, an assistant district attorney. If the execution is carried out, it would be Pennsylvania’s first in 13 years, and the first since 1962 of an inmate who did not choose to die.
The Philadelphia district attorney, R. Seth Williams, said he would immediately appeal the ruling to the State Supreme Court. He attacked the decision as unjust, and accused Judge Sarmina of overlooking the fact that Mr. Williams had never testified that he was abused.
Shawn Nolan, a lawyer for Terrance Williams, is confident that the State Supreme Court would uphold judge Sarmina’s ruling.
“We do not believe that the court will tolerate the prosecutor’s actions in this case, especially when life or death are at issue,” Mr. Nolan said in a statement.