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Judge Stays Terry Williams' Execution

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Lisak said "the violence and abuse (he) suffered was so severe, and so sustained, that I would not expect any child subjected to such unrelenting trauma to emerge without severe and long-lasting psychological damage."

He suffered from PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and major depression. At age 44, he still has secondary PTSD symptoms, constant anxiety, uneasy sleep, and nightmares.

As a high school senior, his behavior was erratic. He'd scream and yell for no reason. He was paranoid. He thought everyone was out to get him. At night, he'd cry himself to sleep. He thought he was someone no one could love or respect.

On the day he killed Norwood, he was three and a half months past his 18th birthday. Legally he was an adult subject to the death penalty if convicted and so ordered.

Lisak said the killing was caused by his acutely traumatized state. Fear, terror and rage built up for years. Norwood's death resulted. So did Hamilton's months earlier.

On September 17, Williams' clemency plea was denied. His lawyers re-petitioned. On September 27, his second hearing was held. On September 28, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons took his plea under advisement. It didn't say when it would rule.

The same day, Judge Sarmina stayed his execution. She cited prosecutorial suppression of evidence. It might have persuaded jurors to spare him. 

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court will decide whether to uphold or reject her ruling. District Attorney Seth Williams denounced it. That's what prosecutors do. They want convictions, not exonerations. They don't like having their malfeasance exposed to public view.

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Philly.com (Philadelphia Inquirer) writer Joseph Slobodzian headlined "D.A. appeals stay of Terrance William' execution," saying:

He wants him killed, not spared. He'll have to wait until High Court judges decide. If they uphold Sarmina, Governor Tom Corbett "would have to sign a new warrant setting a new execution date."

"It's virtually new terrain for the Supreme Court and governor." Since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, Pennsylvania only executed three prisoners. 

They did so after "individuals gave up appeals and asked to die." The last one put to death was in 1999. "The last contested execution in which last-minute appeals were an issue for the state Supreme Court and governor was in 1962."

On September 28, attorney Shawn Nolan issued a statement following Sarmina's ruling. In part he said:

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"On behalf of Terry Williams, we are extremely pleased that Judge Sarmina".vacated the death penalty based on misconduct by the prosecution".The Philadelphia District Attorney should stop appeal(ling) and stop fighting to have Terry executed."

Attorney General Seth Williams had detailed evidence of how Terry was abused for years. He and his assistants concealed "critical evidence from jurors and continued hiding it for 28 years."

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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