But we do know what prosecutors argued, and, for now, that will have to suffice. On September 7, the district attorney submitted a response to the Williams' clemency petition. In their five-page letter to the Board of Pardons, prosecutors first made an argument they say was given to them by the Board itself, on its website, where it says "the pardoning power has been used for extenuating circumstances in which the court could not act." Don't act like a "super court," prosecutors told the Board, don't do anything that all those state and federal court appellate judges weren't willing to do. Don't "overrule" the justice system.
But of course that defeats the very purpose of clemency, which is to serve as a backup in case the judicial system does not, for whatever reason, fix an injustice. Since clemency is rarely even requested, much less granted, when a defendant has a legal remedy that has been recognized by the courts, the prosecutors' theory of clemency here would make it a charade; you could only get relief if you didn't need it. And if you really needed it, like Williams does, because the courts have failed, then you can't get it because the courts weren't first willing to give it to you. It's a Catch-22 that could spell the end of Williams' life.
The brief also tells us that some of the same state officials who came late to the Sandusky scandal, reassuring their mortified constituents that they are sensitive to the difficulties in reporting child sex abuse, have cynically turned that argument around in Williams' case. He didn't come forward, either, for many years, to report the ways in which he was being raped by older men, including older men in positions of power and trust. And now, say these politicians and bureaucrats, it's too late for Williams to bring it up; too late even though his life is on the line. From their letter:
How does Williams explain his curious failure to mention this allegation earlier? By likening himself to a young altar boy who is sodomized by his parish priest and so traumatized that decades pass before he is able to verbalize what was done to him. But the attempted analogy is cynical.
Terrance Williams is no altar boy, silenced by fear. He is a serial felon and murderer who has been claiming abuse for at least 15 years. There was the neighbor who raped him when he was five, the older friend who took advantage of him, the teacher who crossed the line, the assault in juvenile detention facility. How is it that he neglected to mention, either at trial or on his many appeals, the one alleged incident that would have been most closely related to his crime?
They think it's all a lie, that Williams has a "long record of manipulative and malevolent behavior" and that he's making it all up. Maybe they are right. But such a position means that that prosecutors also don't believe Norwood's widow, or the five jurors or the primary witness, Draper, whose testimony they relied on to get Williams' death sentence in the first place. It means they don't believe the former judges and prosecutors, scores of them, who wrote to say that Williams' trial was flawed. It means they don't believe the doctor who also recanted his trial testimony. They are all making it up. They are all in on the conspiracy.