Man executed 91 years ago found innocent

He was sentenced to death for murder and executed at the age of 16: 91 years later, a Pennsylvania court in the eastern United States this week found Alexander McClay Williams innocent and awarded justice to this African American and his only surviving 92 – year old sister.

“I’m just glad it ended the way it should have started,” the teen’s sister, Susie Williams-Carter, was quoted as saying by The Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday. “We knew he was innocent, now we want everyone to know.”

“We cannot rewrite history. (…) But if justice can be done by publicly admitting such a mistake, we must seize the opportunity,” said Delaware, Pennsylvania District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer.

Prosecutors issued a press release after a district judge dropped the case Monday in favor of Alexander McClay Williams after years of litigation.

“This decision is a recognition that the charges against him should never have been brought,” added the prosecutor, recalling that the teenager executed on February 27, 1931 was the youngest boy in that state’s history to face the death penalty suffered.

On October 3, 1930, the husband of Vida Robare, a white head of the Glen Mills School for Boys, a detention center for juvenile delinquents, found the body of his “brutally murdered” wife in their chalet enclosure, prosecutors recall.

Quickly indicted, 16-year-old Alexander McClay Williams, who was serving a sentence at the facility, had signed confessions three times during five interrogations without the presence of a lawyer or relative, “despite the absence of eyewitnesses or direct evidence”. , adds the same source.

His later appointed attorney, William Ridley, the district attorney’s first African American, had no resources to prepare for the trial, and “the defendant faced an all-white jury that convicted him in less than four hours,” prosecutors continue.

Jack Stollsteimer credits the “years of tireless” work of the boy’s sister and attorney’s great-grandson to point out “the inconsistencies” in the case file, which are nonetheless ignored as elements the defendant can excuse.

Prosecutors cite this “bloody adult male handprint found near the door to the crime scene and photographed by police” but which was “never mentioned at trial”. Or the existence of another suspect, Vida Robare’s ex-husband, from whom she “divorced for ‘extreme cruelty'”.

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