PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 13, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today issued the following statement in response to Gov. Wolf’s announcement declaring a death penalty “moratorium” in Pennsylvania:
The people who are most grateful for this “moratorium” on capital punishment are the guiltiest, cruelest, most vicious killers on death row. Most other murderers do not get the death penalty, and if they did they will likely have the sentence reversed on appeal.
Terrance Williams must be one of those grateful killers today. He is one of the few capital murderers in Pennsylvania who has lost all his appeals, all the way up to both the Pennsylvania and United States Supreme Courts. And there is not a shred of doubt about his guilt. Even his own lawyers don’t claim he is innocent.
I am weary of this murderer’s effort to portray himself as a victim. He has committed robberies and burglaries, he has broken into the home of an elderly woman in the middle of the night, on Christmas Eve, put a rifle muzzle to her neck, and threatened to blow her “f—ing head off,” and he has brutally bludgeoned to death two older gay men in order to steal their belongings. These were not spontaneous crimes of “rage.” He planned each one in advance, he made careful efforts to cover up his involvement, and he made sure to profit.
The power to issue a reprieve exists to permit examination of last-minute evidence or legal claims that could not otherwise be reviewed. But there are no new claims here; they have been examined and reviewed and ruled on, over and over and over again. The reprieve is unlawful.
If the governor wants to be a man of his convictions, he should debate this issue publicly and try to persuade the legislature and the people to change the law. But he has no moral or legal right to nullify judicial rulings and legislative statutes. The governor’s action today was an injustice to the citizens of this state, who support the death penalty in limited and appropriate cases, to the judges who have conscientiously reviewed this case over two decades, and to victims of crime, who deserve to see justice carried out as the laws provide.