Terry Williams — Another Amnesty fairy tale of a useless lawyer


Amnesty International is at it again, peddling a fairy tale that portrays a convicted murderer as the victim of a third rate criminal justice system and a useless lawyer.

Remember Troy Davis? He was the “innocent” man executed in the Deep South last year in spite of 7 of the 9 witnesses against him recanting. That’s what Amnesty said, they didn’t tell you about the other 25 who didn’t recant, people who weren’t pressurised, leaned on, subjected to emotional blackmail or even bribed by the anti-death penalty lobby.

Remember Linda Carty, the “innocent” woman currently awaiting execution in Texas after being framed by wicked drug dealers then failed by a useless lawyer? She’s the one championed by Clive Stafford Smith – The Baron Münchhausen of Death Row – and his small but dedicated team of liars here in London. Guess what, she’s guilty as Hell too.

Now here comes another victim of a corrupt and useless criminal justice system in the shape of Terry Williams. This time the usual suspects are not claiming this double murderer is innocent; they can’t do that because the evidence against him is so totally and utterly overwhelming, instead they are begging for mercy because, in the words of the gullibles petitioning on his behalf: “Throughout his childhood, Terry suffered prolonged violent physical and sexual abuse from older males”. Or maybe they’re not gullibles, maybe they know exactly what they are doing.

One petition is not only asking for clemency for Williams but is circulating viles slanders on his victims.

The picture they paint is of a child who was subjected to years of sexual abuse by two men, then cracked under the strain and killed them in a moment of madness. Or maybe it was two moments of madness. The implication is – homophobia aside – that his abusers deserved it. What is even more shocking is that his court appointed lawyer never presented this in mitigation. He didn’t for a very good reason, the story is a fairy tale. There is one final piece of propaganda being used by the anti-death penalty lobby, the picture they show of Williams (above), he looks like an all-American kid, maybe he’d be a bit of a rebel, but only in a Will Smith or Eddie Murphy sort of way. Heck, Mitt Romney would probably welcome him into his church; even the widow of one of his victims has forgiven him and is asking for clemency.

As with the aforementioned Troy Davis and Linda Carty, and indeed many others, campaigners, and even mainstream journalists – who are expected to at least do some basic fact checking – have taken up the story, parroting it uncritically for every other well meaning but gullible person to swallow. Now let’s look at the facts behind the fairy tale.

Like all death penalty cases in the United States, the conviction and sentence of Terry Williams has been reviewed by the appellate courts more than once. The legal process for capital cases is incredibly slow and some people spend not simply years but decades on death row, as has Williams, so what did the senior judges say about his case? Well, the Third Circuit thought he had less in common with a little boy lost than with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde:

“A popular and heralded high school athlete and student, a seemingly well-respected youth, Williams was convicted for a heinous crime spree that began shortly before and ended shortly after his 18th birthday”.

No, the people at Amnesty didn’t say anything about a crime spree. They did mention his conviction for a December 1982 armed robbery – the victims of which were two elderly people, but there is no reference to its being a home invasion robbery.

Williams was no gangsta from da hood, he had real potential to be a star on the football field as did Brian Banks before he was fitted up for a rape that never happened by an evil little tart.

There is though no doubt about the crimes Williams perpetrated. His first crime was committed with an accomplice at dead of night. Although he was to be tried as an adult, he was granted bail pending trial. His first murder victim was a 51 year old man with whom he’d had sex for money. In spite of his youth, it is difficult in view of his character to portray him as an innocent victim of child abuse. A man of 50+ who has sex with a minor, be it normal sex or homosexual sex, be it full penetration or some lesser form, is in law a paedophile. Although the age of consent in Pennsylvania is currently 16, for this age difference there is a corruption of minors provision, so in practice it is 18. In view of what he did before his sexual misadventures, Williams was hardly a corrupted minor.

The January 1984 murder of Herbert Hamilton was particularly grisly; the victim was stabbed and battered to death, then his body was set on fire. After this, Williams stood trial for the home invasion robbery; he pleaded not guilty and the picture painted by the defence and numerous character witnesses was of a “peaceful, law-abiding, and honest young man”, not a word about abuse, sexual or otherwise.

In spite of being told what a wonderful chap he was, the jury in the first trial decided that on the evidence they had seen, he was guilty. He was convicted of several offences including two counts of robbery and one of simple assault, and, unfortunately, the court let him free on bail pending sentencing, something that is a tad unusual for something as serious as this.

While awaiting sentence, Williams and a friend, Marc Draper, were arrested for armed robbery; the victim was Robert Hill, an acquaintance of Herbert Hamilton. In spite of his awaiting sentence for the home invasion robbery, Williams was released, as was Draper.

In June 1984, after losing their money gambling, Williams told Draper he knew where to get some more. They set off for the apartment of 56 year old Amos Norwood, a married man who had a penchant for underage boys. Whether or not he was a closet homosexual, a bi-sexual or anything else, he gave Williams ten dollars in cash while Draper waited outside.

Twenty minutes later, having obtained this money, the two returned to their gambling, at which point Amos Norwood appeared in his car, which Williams flagged down. The two drove off, then returned, presumably this was how Williams had earned his ten dollars.

Then Williams told Draper “Play it off like you going home, like you want a ride home, and we gonna take some money.”

Draper understood this to mean they were going to rob Norwood. With Williams and his as yet half-unwitting accomplice in the car, Norwood was directed to a quiet spot near a cemetery at which point they proceeded to rob him. They took twenty dollars, all he had, and leaving him naked, bound and gagged, Draper was prepared to drive off in the victim’s car. Alas, Williams had other ideas, and began beating Norwood with a tyre iron, then goaded Draper into joining in. Draper could have refused, but made the wrong choice.

Later, Williams returned to the crime scene alone, and burned the body. What more can be said? At the time of this horrendous crime, Williams had just turned 18 years old. He also had a girlfriend, so was clearly prostituting himself to sad middle aged men. By the time of his trial he was also a father.

The rest of the story is not that important, but briefly, Williams was tried twice for murder. He was convicted of the third degree murder of Mr Hamilton, and of the first degree murder of Amos Norwood after attempting unsuccessfully to pin the murder on Marc Draper and another individual – who played no part in the crime. Unlike Williams, Draper appears to be not entirely without redemption; it is clear that he would never have committed a crime of this gravity on his own, and testified against Williams. For his part in the crime he received a life sentence.

Williams has had years of appeals in which like so many guilty men he has blamed everyone but himself. He may not have had the best lawyer in the world, but he didn’t need a lawyer, he needed a magician. Nevertheless, he has attempted to blame that lawyer for failing to adduce non-existent evidence of non-existent abuse at the penalty phase of his trial, as if that would somehow mitigate the savage murders of two men, one of them totally defenceless and at his mercy, a man from whom he had taken money voluntarily.

He has also tried to play the race card with the usual garbage about racial bias in jury selection, which infers that black jurors would somehow be less revolted by his crimes than white ones. Neither of these claims cut any ice with the appellate courts, which found no merit in his Batson claim and found his defense had met the Strickland standard.

The bottom line is that the people at Amnesty are attempting yet again to pull the wool over the eyes of the American public. Even the claim that the widow of Amos Norwood has asked for clemency needs qualification. What did the lady actually say? Here is her affidavit. *

In short, this is a woman who has suffered greatly from both the murder of her husband in horrifying circumstances, and probably by the realisation that he had been engaged in sordid sexual practices behind her back. Now, two decades and more on, she has realised like many people – Christian and non-Christian – she has to forgive him for what he has done because if she continues to hate him she will be hurting herself. She certainly doesn’t want to see him back on the street – which is most unlikely – but she has to let go of the hate and resentment.

Should Terry Williams be executed? For those who want to retain the death penalty, certainly for heinous crimes, the best thing would be to attempt to reform the system so that when someone is convicted on absolutely overwhelming evidence, the sentence is carried out reasonably promptly, within a year, two years at most. Those opposed to it should use honest arguments, of which there are many, not this duplicitous and venal twaddle that Amnesty spews out time and time and time again.

Finally, below is a recent photograph of Terry Williams. Doesn’t have quite the same appeal as the one Amnesty is peddling, does it?

An official release. A prison photograph of convicted double murderer Terry Williams.

[The above op-ed was first published September 16, 2012. * When I came back to this article in April 2023, the linked affidavit had vanished; it had not been archived. I have only limited time but managed to fish out the linked letter from the widow of Amos Norwood; it was on the website media-philly dot com. At the time of writing, this scumbag is still on death row.]

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