EU calls for halting Pennsylvania man's execution
(WASHINGTON) - The European Union made an appeal Thursday to stay the execution of a Pennsylvania man subjected to childhood abuse who is due to be put to death next month for killing two of his abusers.
Through its delegation in the United States, the EU launched an "urgent humanitarian appeal" on behalf of Terry Williams, who has been on death row for 24 years.
The consequences of the trauma Williams endured during his childhood "have arguably had a significant and destructive effect on his life," the EU delegation said in a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Corbett.
The EU, which is opposed to capital punishment in all circumstances and is seeking a global moratorium against the death penalty, said executing Williams as scheduled on October 3 would break a "de facto moratorium" in the northeastern state, which last executed a convict on July 6, 1999.
Defense lawyers say Williams also stands to be the first person involuntarily put to death in 50 years in Pennsylvania.
Williams was sentenced to death for murders he committed just three and a half months after his 18th birthday, the minimum age for execution.
In 1986, he killed a man suspected of having brutally raped and otherwise physically abused him during his childhood. A year earlier, when Williams was just 17 and thus a minor, he killed another suspected abuser.
The case is "particularly distressing because he has been reported to have been sexually abused by the person who he murdered, a fact which appears not to have been taken into account during his trial," the Council of Europe said in a letter to the Philadelphia Board of Pardons.
Human rights groups, childhood experts and former trial jurors have added their voice to a petition by former judges and prosecutors, law professors, mental health professionals and religious officials, including Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput.
They are asking that Williams's death sentence be commuted to life in prison.
In the petition, several jurors who participated in Williams's trial said that they would have sentenced him to death without the possibility of parole, not death, if they had known about his history of childhood abuse.