Last week, Philadelphia Judge M. Teresa Sarmina granted a stay in the execution of Terrance ‘Terry’ Williams, after finding that prosecutors in his 1986 trial hid evidence of the abuse Williams allegedly endured at the hands of the church deacon he murdered. The AP reports that Sarmina also vacated the sentence and granted Williams a new sentencing hearing. Philadelphia’s district attorney has appealed the stay with the state Supreme Court, which must decide by midnight Wednesday whether to execute Williams.
Williams’ defense team argues that the prosecution is only appealing the stay of execution, not the death sentence being thrown out entirely. Following the judge’s decision to throw out the sentence, said the public defenders, the state cannot execute Williams unless he’s re-sentenced to death.
If the state Supreme Court reverses the stay and prepares to execute Williams via lethal injection, his team of public defenders is prepared to file an eleventh-hour plea to the U.S. Supreme Court.
If Williams is executed, he will be the first person to be put to death by the state of Pennsylvania since 1999.
Williams has been on death row since 1986, when he was convicted for beating a 56-year-old man to death with a tire iron. His victim, Amos Norwood, was also his alleged abuser. According to defense lawyer Victor J. Abreu, Williams suffered more than a decade of sexual abuse at the hands of Norwood and other men, including Herbert Hamilton, for whose murder Williams received a life sentence.