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Convicted killer Terrance Williams sent back to Pa. death row

Convicted killer Terrance Williams is returning to death row.

Convicted killer Terrance Williams is returning to death row.

Williams was a Cheyney University freshman when he and a fellow student lured Amos Norwood, 56, to a cemetery. Once there, Williams and a friend tied Norwood up with his own clothes, beat him to death with a tire iron and robbed him. They spent the money gambling in Atlantic City. The next day Williams returned to the scene and set fire to Norwood's corpse.

That was 30 years ago.

Williams, a former star quarterback at Germantown High School, was set to be executed on Oct. 3, 2012. But just days before he was to die by lethal injection, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge vacated the sentence and excoriated the assistant District Attorney in charge of the case for suppressing evidence and gross prosecutorial misconduct.

Judge M. Teresa Sarmina accused A.D.A. Andrea Foulkes of withholding evidence of the victim's homosexuality and the extent of the deal she had struck with Williams' cooperating accomplice, Marc Draper.

In an opinion issued by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on Monday, Justice J. Michael Eakin absolved Foulkes and wrote that Sarmina had attempted to circumvent a valid death sentence.

Foulkes, now a federal prosecutor, had been a young prosecutor in 1984 during Williams' first trial and has remained involved with the case for nearly  three decades. After Sarmina's searing condemnation of Foulkes' alleged misdeeds, city District Attorney Seth Williams and federal prosecutors vigorously defended her.

Reached Tuesday at the U.S. Attorney's office in Philadelphia, Foulkes was appreciative and issued a short statement.

"I feel both professionally and personally vindicated by the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court."

In halting Williams' execution, Sarmina had claimed that Foulkes withheld mitigating evidence, or information that might lead the jury to forego the death penalty.

Williams - who killed another man six months before his first conviction - had claimed he did not know about Norwood's homosexuality. But as Justice Eakin noted in the opinion, Williams admittedly engaged in homosexual acts with Norwood. Williams said Norwood had molested him since he was 15 and had suggested the murder was an "enraged killing" in response to the alleged abuse.

In addition, though Williams claimed no involvement with Norwood's murder at the trial, "evidence included his plan to extort Norwood by threatening to expose him for being a homosexual, and statements in which Draper and [Williams] taunted Norwood for 'liking boys' while they were beating him."

Justice Eakins said that Williams had tried to suggest that had he known more about Norwood's sexual proclivities, his defense would have learned the actual motive for the murder. Eakins didn't buy the argument.

In closing, the Justice slammed Williams for committing perjury at trial, testifying he didn't know the victim, had never seen him before, took no part in the murder and had no reason to be angry with him.

Pennsylvania has executed three people since it revived the death penalty in 1978. Gary Heidnick, executed in July 1999, was the last man to be put to death by lethal injection in Pennsylvania.