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Terrance Williams

Other Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania homicide exonerations
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On January 26, 1984, 50-year-old Hubert Hamilton was found stabbed to death in his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He had been stabbed at least 20 times and the knife was found in his neck.

The crime was still unsolved when, on June 11, 1984, 56-year-old Amos Norwood was found bludgeoned to death and set on fire in a Philadelphia cemetery.

On August 14, 1984, police arrested 18-year-old Terrance Williams, who had been a star high school football quarterback leading Germantown High School to its first state championship in 50 years. He was charged with both murders.

At the time, Williams was a quarterback for the Cheyney University football team. Hamilton was a beloved figure among basketball players at Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia, buying them warmup clothes and a van. Norwood was a deacon at an Episcopal church.

Williams was charged based on statements from 18-year-old Marc Draper, who said he saw Williams kill Norwood and that Williams admitted to him that he killed Hamilton.

In both cases, the victims were paying Williams to have sex with them.

In February 1985, Williams went to trial in Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas for the murder of Hamilton. The prosecution sought the death penalty.

The prosecutor, Andrea Foulkes, argued that Williams led a double life—as a star athlete and as a homosexual prostitute. According to Draper, who was Williams’s friend, the murder occurred after Williams got angry at Hamilton for talking publicly about his relationship with Williams. Draper testified that Williams concealed a knife when he got into bed with Hamilton and then stabbed him multiple times. He then beat Hamilton with a baseball bat.

A medical examiner testified that Hamilton suffered 21 stab wounds. The prosecution presented evidence that Williams’s palm print was found on the baseball bat recovered at the scene.

During questioning by the prosecutor, Draper denied that he had been promised any benefits for his testimony.

Williams testified that he acted in self-defense. He told the jury that he went to Hamilton’s house and Hamilton showed him pictures of nude males. He said Hamilton told him he “wasn’t leaving the apartment alive” unless he posed for photographs in the nude while Hamilton masturbated.

Williams said that Hamilton tried to stab him, cutting Williams’s head and lip. Williams said he wrestled the knife away from Hamilton and began stabbing him as Hamilton continued to fight. Williams said that after Hamilton threw a baseball bat at him, Williams got the bat and struck Hamilton in self-defense as Hamilton continued to come after him.

Williams said he then left and went to a doctor for treatment. He said he later gave Draper the keys to Hamilton’s residence because he saw nude photographs of Draper and Draper wanted to get them out of there.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Foulkes asked Williams if he had given the name of the doctor who treated him to his defense attorney. When Williams’s lawyer objected to that question, Foulkes argued that “clearly he’s making this story up to justify his presence” at Hamilton’s apartment.

Williams admitted he did not remember the name of the doctor. His defense lawyer had a copy of the medical report showing that five sutures had been used and asked Foulkes to stipulate that the record could be admitted into evidence. The following day, Foulkes said she had spoken to the doctor and as a result, she would not stipulate to the report. Williams’s lawyer then telephoned the doctor, but the doctor refused to speak to him.

The report that the defense lawyer had was not a complete copy of Williams’s medical report and did not have Williams’s name on it. The judge refused to allow the medical report into evidence because “it doesn’t have a name on the record that they gave you. There is no way of verifying that that’s this defendant here.”

During closing argument, Foulkes told the jury that “there is not a single piece of evidence to corroborate [Williams’s] bold statement that it’s now self-defense.” Moreover, Foulkes told the jury that “there is nothing to indicate, except the defendant’s testimony, that anyone in his lifetime was ever coerced to do anything against his will in Herb Hamilton’s apartment.” Foulkes claimed that Hamilton “never forced anybody to do anything. He had 150 pictures of willing participants.”

Foulkes said that Draper’s testimony had never wavered from the day he was arrested. She said that Draper “is going to serve a life term…he knows that his sentence is a life sentence and for that he’s got to testify against his best friend and in another trial.”

On February 25, 1985, the jury declined to convict Williams of first-degree murder and instead returned a verdict of third-degree murder—a charge that was not eligible for the death penalty. Williams was sentenced to 13½ to 27 years in prison.

Nearly a year later, in January 1986, Williams was convicted of Norwood’s murder based on Draper’s testimony. Foulkes was the prosecutor in this trial as well, and presented a case that was virtually devoid of any references to sex.

Draper claimed that he and Williams had been gambling and lost their money, so they went to Norwood’s home. Draper said Williams said they would get money by threatening to tell Norwood’s wife he was gay. Norwood gave them $10. Later that day, Draper said, Williams came up with a plan to rob Norwood.

Draper said they asked Norwood to give them a ride home. He said Williams told him to give directions to Ivy Hill cemetery. There, according to Draper, they stripped Norwood and tied him up with his clothes. Then Williams, in a frenzied rage, grabbed a tire iron and a socket wrench and beat Norwood to death. Draper said that Williams forced him to beat Norwood as well.

Draper said they took Norwood’s money, credit cards, and car. Later, according to Draper, Williams returned and set Norwood’s body on fire. They subsequently went to Atlantic City with a friend who used Norwood’s credit card—which was how police came to focus on them as suspects.

Williams testified and denied that he was present at or took any part in the murder.

On February 3, 1986, the jury convicted Williams of first-degree murder, robbery and criminal conspiracy. He was sentenced to death.

Days later, Draper pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

Williams’s efforts to set aside his convictions in both cases were unsuccessful until 2012 when Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina set aside Williams’s death sentence and ordered a new sentencing hearing. By that time, Williams admitted that he had been having sex with Norwood since he was about 13 years old, and that he had been sexually and physically abused since he was about six years old.

Judge Sarmina found that Foulkes had turned over “sanitized” versions of statements from Norwood’s wife and his pastor. These versions removed references to his sexual activities with other males. The prosecutor also failed to turn over another report that Norwood had made a sexual advance on a teenager.

As a result, the prosecution interfered with the defense learning that Norwood “had engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with teenage boys other than [Williams] and created a false impression for the jury.”

By that time, Draper had given a sworn statement that the prosecution pressured him to say that the motive for the murder was robbery and to not go into detail about the sexual relationship between Williams and Norwood. None of that ever was presented to the jury—Williams’s defense attorneys in the Norwood case didn’t meet him until the day before trial began [both were later disbarred].

Judge Sarmina said that Foulkes “exhibited a pattern of playing fast and loose” and engaging in “gamesmanship.”

Judge Sarmina ruled that had the prosecution revealed all of the information about Norwood, the defense could have presented evidence and “credibly argued” that Williams was “another one of Mr. Norwood’s teenage sexual targets, ultimately bolstering [Williams’s] case in mitigation and undermining confidence in the jury’s death sentence. Without this evidence, [Williams’s attorney] was given a skewed and incomplete picture of the victim which effectively tied his hands while the prosecution elicited testimony…about [Norwood’s] kind and caring nature.” The judge noted that the prosecution argued to the jury during the penalty phase that Norwood’s “kind” and “innocent" nature should be considered against Williams when deciding whether to impose the death penalty.

The prosecution appealed the ruling to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. At that time, the Chief Justice was Ronald Castille, who was the Philadelphia District Attorney at the time of Williams’s two trials and had given approval for Foulkes to seek the death penalty. Williams’s lawyers filed a motion asking Castille to recuse himself from the case or, if he refused, to refer the motion to the full court for a ruling. Castille, without providing any explanation, refused to recuse himself and denied the motion to refer the case to the full court. Castille was then part of the majority of the court that in 2014 vacated Judge Sarmina’s ruling and reinstated Williams’s death sentence. Castille retired two weeks later.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision and vacated the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision that reinstated Williams’s death sentence. The court ruled that Castille should have recused himself. The case was sent back to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In 2017, that court issued a ruling that upheld Judge Sarmina’s decision to grant Williams a new sentencing hearing. Williams was subsequently re-sentenced to life in prison.

In January 2019, Williams’s lawyers were granted access to the prosecution file in the Hamilton case. They discovered that Foulkes had failed to disclose exculpatory evidence in that case as well.

A post-conviction review petition filed in January 2019 claimed that in Foulkes’s file was a complete copy of the medical report with Williams’s name on it. The medical record refuted Foulkes’s argument at trial that there was no evidence to corroborate William’s “bold statement” that he acted in self-defense. Foulkes “had the entire page of the record, hid it in her file, misled the court and failed to disclose it to the defense,” the petition said.

In addition, the defense learned that Draper’s first statement to police was that Williams told him that he and Hamilton “had a sexual encounter, that prior to the encounter Terry wanted money from Hamilton and they got into a fight and that Terry stabbed Hamilton in the neck.” That statement contradicted Draper’s trial testimony that Hamilton was killed because he was spreading rumors about his sexual relationship with Williams, and that Hamilton was in bed when Williams climbed in with a concealed knife and began stabbing him.

The petition noted that Foulkes falsely told the jury, “Marc Draper states from the day he’s arrested…exactly what he said on the stand…It was exactly what he said on the stand…those are the kinds of things that tend to indicate that an individual is telling the truth.”

The petition noted that the prosecution file showed that Foulkes had allowed Draper to testify falsely when he said he was promised nothing for his testimony. In fact, the police had agreed not to charge Draper with a burglary that he admitted committing. Moreover, Foulkes had promised that Draper would receive a prison term of years and that she would write to the parole board on his behalf.

In addition, the petition noted that hundreds of photographs of child pornography were found in the prosecutor’s file that had never been disclosed to the defense. In fact, the prosecution had claimed years earlier that all evidence in the case—except for the knife—had been destroyed. “Evidence that Hamilton was a pedophile who forced underage children to pose naked in sex acts was relevant to, and supported, [Williams’s] defense,” the petition said.

In May 2019, Judge Sarmina vacated Williams’s convictions in the Hamilton case and granted him a new trial. On January 29, 2020, the prosecution dismissed the case.

At the time, Williams remained in prison serving his sentence for the Norwood murder. At the same time, his lawyers have a pending appeal seeking to overturn his conviction in that case based on the failure of Foulkes to disclose exculpatory information to the defense prior to Williams’s trial.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/25/2020
State:Pennsylvania
County:Philadelphia
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1984
Convicted:1985
Exonerated:2020
Sentence:13 1/2 to 27 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:17
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No