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Sep-11-2012 14:54printcomments

US/Pennsylvania: Commute Terrance Williams' Death Sentence

William Nicholas Gomes appeals for the life of a death row inmate in Pennsylvania.

Terrance Williams
Terrance Williams had just turned 18 at the time of his crime, photo courtesy: The Crash Culture

(SALEM) - How could it be that the U.S. state known for its role in the Revolutionary War; where the Marine Corps and so many other important organizations and national documents were drafted, be a national embarrassment with regard to courtroom practices?

Pennsylvania is the only U.S. state that makes a practice of not informing juries that the alternative to a death sentence is a life without parole sentence. To this day, Pennsylvania continues to withhold this information from juries.

It's bad news for Terrance Williams, a man on death row for a crime he committed just after turning 18.

In his letter to Jim Cawley, Lieutenant Governor and Chairman, Pennsylvania Board of Pardons in Harrisburg, our Human Rights Ambassador William Nicholas Gomes cites the large number of reasons that the death penalty is failing to make sense today, more than ever.

Black men being put to death... statistics show that they are more likely to be executed than those of other races and if the victim in a crime is White and the suspect Black, the odds that they will face the death penalty rises incrementally, according to statistics.

There are many reasons that people lose control of their actions and turn to violence and crime. In the case of Terrance Williams, we are discussing the life of a terribly abused child who was made keenly aware of the impact violence carries. It is time for this state of such major American history to raise the bar and spare the life of this man who is as much a victim of this society, as he is a threat to it.

The Honorable Jim Cawley
Lieutenant Governor
Chairman, Pennsylvania Board of Pardons
333 Market Street, 15th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17126

Re: Support for commutation of sentence of Terrance Williams

Dear Lieutenant Governor Cawley:

I am William Nicholas Gomes Human Rights Ambassador for

I came to know about the situation from a letter written by Antonio Ginatta, Advocacy Director, US Program of Human Rights Watch.

I do agree with the point raised in that letter. I am sharing my concern on the situation. I write to urge you to commute the death sentence of Terrance Williams.

The cornerstone of human rights is respect for the inherent dignity of all human beings and the inviolability of the human person. Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and in all circumstances because the death penalty is inconsistent with the inherent dignity of the person.

Those responsible for serious crimes should be fairly and appropriately held accountable, and the victims of crimes and their families should have access to justice and redress. But it is increasingly recognized around the world that the death penalty is not a just sentence, as it is inevitably plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.

In addition, there are compelling arguments for clemency in Williams’ case. As a child, Williams was the victim of horrific physical and sexual abuse. Moreover, at the time of his crime, he was barely 18-years old; the minimum age for someone to receive the death penalty in the United States. As the Supreme Court has recognized in multiple decisions, there are critical differences between juveniles and adults in terms of maturity, impulsiveness, risk-taking, and vulnerability to outside influences, and therefore the level of culpability for their actions. When it comes to matters of crime and punishment, decision-makers should take into account the age of the offender. While Williams was technically an adult, his relative youth and history of abuse are certainly powerful mitigating factors that should be considered in sentencing.

I would also like to express grave concern over Pennsylvania’s practice of not informing juries that the alternative to the death sentence is a life without parole sentence. Pennsylvania continues to be the only state in the nation to withhold this information from juries. Juries should not be required to make life or death decisions on the basis of incomplete information, as it appears may have happened in Williams’ case.

For these reasons, I strongly urge you commute the sentence of Terrance Williams.


William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.combr>

cc: Members of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons:
The Honorable Linda L. Kelly, Attorney General
The Honorable Louise B. Williams
The Honorable Russell A. Walsh, Ph.D.
The Honorable Harris Gubernick

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______________________________ Human Rights Ambassador William Nicholas Gomes is a Bangladeshi journalist, human rights activist and author was born on 25 December, 1985 in Dhaka. As an investigative journalist he wrote widely for leading European and Asian media outlets.

He is also active in advocating for free and independent media and journalists’ rights, and is part of the free media movement, Global Independent Media Center – an activist media network for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate telling of the truth. He worked for Italian news agency from year 2009 to 2011, on that time he was accredited as a free lance journalist by the press information department of Bangladesh. During this time he has reported a notable numbers of reports for the news agency which were translated into Chinese and Italian and quoted by notable number of new outlets all over the world.He, ideologically, identifies himself deeply attached with anarchism. His political views are often characterized as “leftist” or “left-wing,” and he has described himself as an individualist anarchist.




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Anonymous September 12, 2012 11:35 am (Pacific time)

There we go again, A BLACK MAN! Who gives a damn what color he is? Would you make such a big deal if he was white? Nope, you would not. So, shit out of luck, death penalty, why pay for him for the rest of his life in prison? Get it done and over with. Oh your bleeding heart liberals. Because of your political correctness this Counrty is going down the drain.

Tim King: Is that why?  No, because there are too many false convictions, because it is an archaic idea that makes people twist inside.  

aprohricht September 12, 2012 9:14 am (Pacific time)

What a ridiculous thing to posit! Consequences do not fit the crime so exactly! We aren't molesting child molesters in jail, are we? Why should death be the only response to taking someone else's life? Your logic isn't sound here. What's more, this man WOULD NOT, I repeat, WOULD NOT be let out. The clemency would ONLY grant him life WITHOUT parole. He would never leave jail. I am terribly sorry to hear that you lost your sister and I admit that I would want revenge as well. However, this man killed a man who raped and beat him for years when he was only a child, after years of being raped and beaten by other men as well. If you want to teach children to have respect for each other and compassion, we should have compassion for this man who was a victim of such heinous crimes of rape and molestation from the age of just six years old.

unknown September 11, 2012 7:42 pm (Pacific time)

I have so many emotions reading this, but not the ones you had hoped for when writing this article. There needs to be consequences for actions. They need to fit the crime. If you take a life, you give up yours. What good does sitting in a jail cell for 70+ years do for society? What is this person contributing to even try and atone for his crime? My views may be biased as I lost my sister at the hands of another. In some ways I am thankful that the person took their own life after so that I wouldn't have to hear how I should respect their rights as a human when they got out in a few years to continue their life. Where's my sisters second chance? There needs to be consequences that fit the crime. They need to be carried out in public forum and our children need to be taught respect for each other and the human life before it comes to this or our society is hopeless. At 18 you know right from wrong and should have to live with the consequences of your actions.

Editor: Revenge is not a healthy thing to seek even by proxy and while I am terribly sorry that you lost your sister, and I really mean that, it would be my opinion that you have been dealt a blow that allows you to view it only one way, and I respect that....  I hope you can understand how child abuse, something this man suffered without reprieve, would cause the action.  I could pass it back, who was there to protect him?  There are too many falsely convicted people facing and serving sentences for me to give your point more weight than I am.  I do understand you, but the first thing missing in all of this is compassion.  As humans I believe we are supposed to carry that at all times.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts.  

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