Lawsuit Filed by Family of Black Teen Executed in Pennsylvania Almost a Century Ago

The family of a teenager who was executed by the state of Pennsylvania in 1931, following a murder conviction, has recently filed a lawsuit seeking damages. Despite the passage of almost a century since his death, the family is determined to pursue justice.

Attorneys representing the family of Alexander McClay Williams, who was executed at the age of 16, have recently revealed their intention to file a lawsuit regarding his execution. This comes after Williams’ conviction was overturned in 2022 and a new trial was mandated.

Williams, however, did not receive a posthumous retrial, and his record was expunged in 2017.

Williams’ family has always maintained his innocence.

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District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer argued that Williams should never have faced charges in the first place, as he dismissed the charges against the teen in 2022.

“We cannot change what has happened in the past, and we cannot alter history to erase the terrible actions committed by our ancestors,” Stollsteimer expressed. “But when an opportunity arises to rectify a wrong and bring about justice, we must embrace it and publicly acknowledge the injustice.”

The family of Williams has filed a lawsuit against the state and Delaware County, seeking unspecified punitive damages. The lawsuit stems from Williams’ wrongful conviction and subsequent death.

Williams, an African American man, faced conviction following the discovery of the lifeless body of Vida Robare, a Caucasian house matron at the Glen Mills School for Boys. The tragic incident occurred on October 3, 1930, inside her cottage located on the school premises. It was Fred Robare, Vida’s ex-husband and fellow staff member at the institution, who made the harrowing discovery.

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Williams faced arrest and was charged with stabbing Robare a staggering 47 times.

No one witnessed the crime, and Williams was never seen at the scene. Instead, prosecutors relied on confessions that were coerced out of the 16-year-old Williams.

The lawsuit highlights the disregard of other evidence by prosecutors in their pursuit to convict Williams. One such piece of evidence is the fact that Robare had filed for divorce from her husband, Fred, citing “extreme cruelty” as the reason.

On June 8, 1931, the execution of Williams took place.

In a statement released by Williams’ family attorneys, it was revealed that Sam Lemon, the great-grandson of William H. Ridley, Williams’ criminal trial attorney, has discovered evidence indicating that the case against Williams was based on fabricated evidence.

The conviction was overturned and a new trial was ordered by the Court of Common Pleas for Delaware County in 2022, following the introduction of new evidence.

In a statement, the attorneys noted that Stollsteimer dismissed the case.

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