Com. v. Williams

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtBefore NIX; McDERMOTT
Citation524 Pa. 218,570 A.2d 75
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee, v. Terrance WILLIAMS, Appellant.
Decision Date08 February 1990

Page 75

570 A.2d 75
524 Pa. 218
COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee,
v.
Terrance WILLIAMS, Appellant.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Argued Oct. 23, 1989.
Decided Feb. 8, 1990.

Page 77

[524 Pa. 221] Norris Gelman, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Gaele McLaughlin Barthold, Deputy Dist. Atty., Ronald Eisenberg, Chief, Appeals Div., Hugh J. Burns, Jr., Asst. Dist. Atty., Robert A. Graci, Chief, Deputy Atty. Gen., Brian P. Gottlieb, for appellee.

Before NIX, C.J., and LARSEN, FLAHERTY, McDERMOTT, ZAPPALA and PAPADAKOS, JJ.

OPINION

McDERMOTT, Justice.

The appellant, after a trial by jury, was found guilty of first degree murder, 1 criminal conspiracy, 2 and robbery. 3 In the penalty stage of the trial, the same jury found two [524 Pa. 222] aggravating circumstances and no mitigating circumstances. Accordingly, appellant was sentenced to death on the first degree murder charge. 4 Subsequent to trial, appellant retained private counsel and his appointed trial counsel was permitted to withdraw. His new counsel filed lengthy and detailed post-trial motions, including a motion to vacate the death penalty. Also, appellant was permitted to file additional pro se motions containing multiple averments of trial error, prosecutorial misconduct and ineffectiveness of trial counsel. After a hearing, all post-trial motions were denied and formal sentence was imposed. In addition to the death penalty on the first degree murder charge, appellant was sentenced to a term of five (5) to ten (10) years on the conspiracy charge and ten (10) to twenty (20) years on the robbery charge, with the additional sentences to run consecutive to each other but concurrent to the death penalty sentence. The judgments of sentence were appealed directly to this Court. 5

The facts underlying appellant's convictions are as follows. 6 In the late afternoon on Monday, June 11, 1984, appellant and Marc Draper, both eighteen years old at the time, were gambling with a few other unidentified persons on the corner of Mount Pleasant Avenue and Lincoln Drive in Philadelphia. The two, who had been close friends since third grade, both lost all their money while gambling. After conferring as to potential sources of additional funds, appellant advised Draper that he knew a man, Amos Norwood, who lived nearby from whom they could extort money. Unfortunately for Mr. Norwood, age 56, extortion was merely the opening scene in his personal tragedy.

After discussing the proposed extortion, appellant and Draper then proceeded to the Norwood residence. While Draper waited at a nearby corner, appellant spent fifteen [524 Pa. 223] minutes in Norwood's house before rejoining Draper with ten dollars he had secured from Norwood. As he was exiting Norwood's residence, appellant crossed paths with Norwood's wife, Mamie. Although they did not know each other, appellant said hello to Mrs. Norwood as she passed by. Draper witnessed this exchange, although he did not know Mr. or Mrs. Norwood.

After securing the ten dollars from Norwood, appellant and Draper returned to the scene of the gambling but the participants had taken a break and were merely "rapping" i.e. talking. The pair remained, talking with the others. As misfortune would have it, Mr. Norwood, two or three hours later while on his way to his church to do some volunteer work, was driving by the intersection where the "rapping" was occurring. Appellant, upon seeing Norwood,

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flagged his car down, got in the car and drove away. A few minutes later, he returned with Norwood to the intersection, got out of the car and said to Draper "play it off like you going home, like you want to ride home, and we gonna take some money." Draper, grasping appellant's plan, got in the car with appellant and Norwood, and proceeded to give Norwood false directions home, leading Norwood instead to a dark secluded area adjacent to a cemetery.

At that point, Draper, who was in the rear driver's side seat, grabbed Norwood from behind and appellant, in the front passenger seat, ordered Norwood to "be quiet and get out of the car." Appellant, Draper and Norwood exited the car, climbed over a small fence and proceeded into the cemetery. Upon arriving at some tombstones, Norwood was ordered to lie face down. Appellant and Draper searched Norwood and found twenty dollars hidden in his sock. While Norwood was begging for his life, the assailants tied his hands behind his back with his shirt, tied his legs together with his pants and stuffed his socks in his mouth.

Appellant then told Draper, "Wait, I'm going to the car ... We're getting ready to do something." He then went to the car and returned with a socket wrench, which he [524 Pa. 224] gave to Draper, and a tire iron. After some discussion between appellant and Draper, 7 appellant commenced repeatedly hitting Norwood about the head with the tire iron. Appellant, while hitting the victim, said to Draper, "Man, you with me. We got to do this together." Whereupon, Draper joined in the brutality, striking Norwood's head repeatedly with the socket wrench, while appellant was smashing him with the tire iron.

Finally, when they perceived the victim was dead, the beating stopped and the body was hidden behind two tombstones and covered with some loose brush. The pair then returned to the victim's car, emptied the contents of the glove compartment into a trash bag and dumped the bag into a nearby trash bin. They then drove to Draper's house, where he got ready for work. 8 After making arrangements to meet the next morning, Draper went to work and appellant drove the victim's car to downtown Philadelphia to meet Ronald Rucker, a friend of some two months.

Rucker testified at trial that upon meeting appellant that night, appellant called him aside and confided to him that he had just "offed" a guy named Amos. Rucker testified that although he did not believe appellant at first, he came to believe him when he noticed blood spots on appellant's shoes and when he accompanied appellant for a drive shortly thereafter in the victim's car. After dropping Rucker off very late in the evening, appellant returned to the cemetery, soaked the victim's body in gasoline and set it on fire.

The next day, appellant picked up Draper in the victim's car and together they returned to the trash bin near the cemetery. Their purpose was to retrieve the contents of the glove compartment and determine if there was anything of value to them. In the victim's wallet, they found a Mastercard and an AT & T telephone card, both in the victim's name. Appellant advised Draper that he knew a [524 Pa. 225] person, Ronald Rucker, who could help them make use of the credit cards. The pair then picked up Rucker and, after Rucker confirmed that the Mastercard was usable, 9 the trio drove to Atlantic City, with the intention of using the Mastercard to secure cash advances. Prior to the trip to Atlantic City, Rucker and Draper had never met each other.

Upon arriving in Atlantic City, the three attempted, without success, to secure cash advances with the Mastercard at various casinos. Later in the evening, appellant slipped away from his companions and, unbeknownst

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to them, secured two (2) one hundred dollar cash advances on the card. While at the casinos, Ronald Rucker used the AT & T telephone card to make various telephone calls. The next day, June 13, 1984, appellant used the Mastercard, by signing Norwood's name, to purchase two gold chains at a jewelry store in downtown Philadelphia.

The charred remains of Amos Norwood's body were found by a passerby on June 15, 1984. Despite the burning and extensive decomposition, it was possible to identify his body through his dental records. Because of incautious use of the AT & T telephone card, the ensuing investigation led police to Ronald Rucker and his sister, Renee. On July 18th and 19th, 1984, Ronald Rucker gave two statements to police implicating appellant and Marc Draper. Although Rucker told appellant he was interviewed by the police, he did not tell appellant how deeply he had implicated him during the police interviews.

In any event, on July 19, 1984, shortly after Rucker's second interview with the police, appellant and Rucker took a train to New York and from there they took a cross country bus, with California as their intended destination. Throughout the journey, the two made frequent phone calls home to determine the status of the ongoing investigation.

On July 20, 1984, Marc Draper, based on Ronald Rucker's statement to the police, was arrested and charged with homicide. Draper, the son of a Philadelphia policeman, [524 Pa. 226] made a full confession, describing his own role in the murder and appellant's role in the killing and aftermath. 10 On the same date, an arrest and search warrant was issued on appellant. As a result thereof, a search was conducted at appellant's residence. The search uncovered a blue jacket found in a box in appellant's bedroom. The jacket was later identified as belonging to Amos Norwood.

On July 21, 1984, after failing to locate appellant in Philadelphia, the police, through the National Crime Information Center, issued a "wanted message" regarding appellant to all police departments throughout the country. The next day, through a telephone conversation with his girlfriend, appellant discovered that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. On July 23, 1984, appellant returned to Philadelphia and surrendered himself to police at the office of an attorney.

Although Marc Draper was held in protective custody, appellant was able to speak with him and forward to him a series of four letters suggesting that Draper retract his prior statement and instead study and adopt the "story" contained in the letters, which "story" would exonerate appellant. Draper instead turned over the letters to the Commonwealth and they were introduced into evidence against appellant.

On appeal to this Court, appellant raises...

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80 practice notes
  • Williams v. Pennsylvania, No. 15–5040.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 9, 2016
    ...murdered him. After hearing extensive evidence linking Williams to the crime, the jury convicted him of murder and sentenced him to death. 524 Pa. 218, 227, 570 A.2d 75, 79–80 (1990).In 1995, Williams filed a habeas petition in Pennsylvania state court, alleging that his trial counsel had b......
  • Commonwealth v. Baumhammers, J-16-2013
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • May 27, 2014
    ...change in settled law. Appellant disagrees that Lassiter is distinguishable on these grounds, and suggests that Commonwealth v. Williams, 524 Pa. 218, 570 A.2d 75 (1990), embodied a holding contrary to Lassiter. See Brief for Appellant at 41. Williams, however, involved a killing where the ......
  • Commonwealth v. Baumhammers
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • May 27, 2014
    ...change in settled law. Appellant disagrees that Lassiter is distinguishable on these grounds, and suggests that Commonwealth v. Williams, 524 Pa. 218, 570 A.2d 75 (1990), embodied a holding contrary to Lassiter. See Brief for Appellant at 41. Williams, however, involved a killing where the ......
  • Hackett v. Price, No. CIV. A. 99-5434.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • August 6, 2001
    ...the same problem of precluding an individual juror from considering and weighing mitigating circumstances."); Commonwealth v. Williams, 524 Pa. 218, 570 A.2d 75, 82 (1990) ("Mills ... held that a Maryland death penalty statute was unconstitutional because it required a jury to find mitigati......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
80 cases
  • Williams v. Pennsylvania, No. 15–5040.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 9, 2016
    ...murdered him. After hearing extensive evidence linking Williams to the crime, the jury convicted him of murder and sentenced him to death. 524 Pa. 218, 227, 570 A.2d 75, 79–80 (1990).In 1995, Williams filed a habeas petition in Pennsylvania state court, alleging that his trial counsel had b......
  • Commonwealth v. Baumhammers, J-16-2013
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • May 27, 2014
    ...change in settled law. Appellant disagrees that Lassiter is distinguishable on these grounds, and suggests that Commonwealth v. Williams, 524 Pa. 218, 570 A.2d 75 (1990), embodied a holding contrary to Lassiter. See Brief for Appellant at 41. Williams, however, involved a killing where the ......
  • Commonwealth v. Baumhammers
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • May 27, 2014
    ...change in settled law. Appellant disagrees that Lassiter is distinguishable on these grounds, and suggests that Commonwealth v. Williams, 524 Pa. 218, 570 A.2d 75 (1990), embodied a holding contrary to Lassiter. See Brief for Appellant at 41. Williams, however, involved a killing where the ......
  • Hackett v. Price, No. CIV. A. 99-5434.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • August 6, 2001
    ...the same problem of precluding an individual juror from considering and weighing mitigating circumstances."); Commonwealth v. Williams, 524 Pa. 218, 570 A.2d 75, 82 (1990) ("Mills ... held that a Maryland death penalty statute was unconstitutional because it required a jury to find mitigati......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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