I am against the death penalty and it is cases like Terrance Williams that reaffirms my position. My opposition is partly due to its disproportionate effect on black and brown people. Sure, certain crimes are considerable more heinous than others but determining which are bad enough to qualify for the death penalty is far too subjective. With the case of Terrance Wiliams, we are overreaching for justice by ignoring the circumstances that may have influenced the nature of the crime.
In 1984, Terrance Williams fatally attacked a man by the name of Amos Norwood by bludgeoning him with a tire iron, robbing him and then setting him on fire. There is no question that Terrance Williams is guilty, in fact he had killed another man five months before killing Norwood. People are protesting his execution because it is evident that Williams in addition to the physical abuse by his parents he was sexually abused by multiple men while growing up. Norman was allegedly one of those men.
Terrance Williams’ life was depressing; the details of his upbringing are upsetting. His mother, father, stepfather, and a middle school teacher- all of the people who were supposed to care for him tortured him. He never had a chance. Terrance Williams acted out by prostituting himself to older men and by murdering two of them.
Prosecutors concealed all of the information regarding the abuse from both the jury and from the defense, who had only met with Williams the day before the trial. In fact, his admitted accomplice, Marc Draper, was instructed to keep allegations of the abuse silent so prosecutors could argue robbery was the sole motive.
Again, nobody says that Terrance Williams was right for seeking revenge. Ironically, the State of Pennsylvania is retaliating against Williams whose crime was retaliation against a man who abused him. That is all capital punishment is: killing somebody because they killed somebody. Hardly a model representative for sexual abuse victims, most likely Terrance Williams committed terrible crimes because terrible crimes were committed against him. If we ultimately sentence him to death while not acknowledging his full story, we contribute to the cycle of violence. Exactly how much safer as we, then?