20 September 2012
Pennsylvania Board of Pardons
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17126
Members of the PA Board of Pardons:
I am writing this letter in support of clemency for Terrance Williams, urging that his death sentence be commuted to life without parole. This is without questions the correct move for the state of Pennsylvania to act not just with mercy for Mr. Williams, but also in the name of justice for victims of child rape and molestation throughout the country and across the world.
Terrance Williams committed a crime. He murdered a man. However, he murdered a man who was systematically raping and abusing him after years of being raped and abused by other men in positions of power. Mr. Williams is an example of what can happen to the poor and disenfranchised youth in America. He was taken advantage of countless times and in countless ways. He was forced, from the age of just six years old, to give up his innocence through rape and violence toward him.
What’s more, Pennsylvania’s death penalty system has put in place a system of aggravating and mitigating factors for seeking the death penalty. One of PA’s mitigating factors includes whether the defendant was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance. Ask yourself, if you had been systematically abused from a young age and raped by many men, would you not be in a state of extreme emotional disturbance? Mr. Williams had been violently raped by his victim the night before the murder occurred. Would this cause extreme emotional disturbance, enough to attack and murder someone? Absolutely.
Finally, to execute this man would be a perversion of justice, not just because of his status as a victim of sexual abuse and rape, but also because many jurors, during the time of the trial, were not made aware of the fact that Mr. Williams’ victim had been raping him for years. They were also not notified that an alternative to the death penalty would be life without the possibility of parole. Many jurors from the original trial have now signed sworn affidavits that they would not seek the death penalty had they been given this information at the time.
I urge you all to consider the facts of this case and what executing this man would mean. It would not mean justice for the state of Pennsylvania, since at the time of the trial, vital information was withheld from the jury. It would not mean justice for the widow of Mr. Williams’ victim, since she has also asked for clemency in this case. It would not mean justice for Mr. Williams, who after a lifetime of abuse should at least see some compassion from a state still reeling from cases of child rape and abuse in one of our state’s most respected universities. Please do the right thing here. Do the right thing for Pennsylvania, for the justice system, for victims of child rape, and for Mr. Williams.