Friday, September 28, 2012

Terrance Williams lives!

For now, anyway. Even though a clemency board declined his clemency petition, a judge in Philadelphia has thrown out Williams' death sentence and granted him a new sentencing trial. Remember, this is the case where the prosecution alleged the motive was robbery while blocking the defense from presenting evidence that the victim had sexually abused the defendant (who was 18 at the time of the killing).

The judge accused the prosecution of "gamesmanship" in its efforts to win a death sentence at trial. The prosecutor's own files were filled with nuggets about the victim's sexual exploitation and abuse of teenage boys, including Williams, but none of that ever made it to the defense. (On a side note, a court has previously found that Williams received constitutionally deficient assistance of counsel at trial, yet somehow the death sentence wasn't vacated.) From the clemency petition considered earlier this month, we learned that numerous jurors from the original trial have said their verdict on sentence would have been different had they known then what they know now. So, yeah, this execution, scheduled for Oct. 3, really can't happen.

There is a lot to talk about with this case. It highlights so many of the problems that exist in capital cases. But for this evening, what I really want to focus on is this: if the prosecution will work so hard to keep the jury from hearing some evidence at the penalty phase of a capital trial, it has to be because they know the sentence verdict will be for life if the jury hears it. And if they know that there is evidence that will result in a life sentence, then shouldn't that also mean that they should know a life sentence is the right outcome in the case?

I will never understand how people can fight so hard for the right to kill someone. So they can show their own (and society's) moral superiority and assuage their own (and society's) outrage over the killing of someone. But worse than that is fighting so hard for the right to kill someone that society might not want killed if they knew the whole truth. Fortunately for Terrance Williams, the whole truth is finally coming to light while his sentence can still be corrected.

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