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Last Surviving Sibling Files Lawsuit against County which Prosecuted the Trial of his 16-year-old Brother in 1931 putting him on Death Row in Pennsylvania

Last Surviving Sibling Files Lawsuit against County which Prosecuted the Trial of his 16-year-old Brother in 1931 putting him on Death Row in Pennsylvania

A lawsuit has been filed by the family of the individual who holds the unfortunate distinction of being the youngest person ever executed in Pennsylvania. This Black teenager, who was sent to the electric chair in 1931 and later exonerated by the governor in 2022, is seeking justice by suing the county responsible for his prosecution.

Alexander McClay Williams was found guilty of committing a murder in October 1930. The victim was a white woman who was stabbed with an icepick in her cottage, which was located on the grounds of his reform school.

Vida Robare, 34, was brutally attacked and suffered multiple stab wounds. The body was discovered by her ex-husband, who happened to be employed at the same school. Additionally, two fingerprint experts analyzed a photograph of an adult’s bloody handprint found at the scene. However, this information was not brought up during the trial, and neither was the fact that she had been granted a divorce based on “extreme cruelty.”

Despite lacking evidence and eyewitnesses, Williams, who is 5-foot-5 and weighs 125 pounds, was immediately considered a suspect in the case. He underwent several days of intense questioning without the presence of his parents or legal representation, and eventually agreed to sign three confessions, according to researchers.

He was found guilty by a jury composed entirely of white individuals on January 7, 1931, and subsequently put to death five months later, on June 8.

“They took his life,” Susie Williams Carter, 94, of Chester, the sole remaining sibling in the family of 13 children, stated during a press conference on Monday. “Justice must be served for the loss of my brother.”

She was just a young child back then, and her parents, overwhelmed with grief, rarely discussed it. According to her, they operated a boarding house in Coatesville, but decided to leave town when the scandal gained national attention.

According to Philadelphia lawyer Joseph Marrone, the family, parents, Susie, and trial lawyer William Ridley were deeply affected by this tragic event. Marrone recently filed a federal lawsuit against Delaware County and the estates of two detectives and a prosecutor involved in the case.

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Gov. Tom Wolf expressed his apologies on behalf of Pennsylvania as he exonerated Williams, referring to his execution as a grave injustice. The conviction was vacated by a Delaware County judge after District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer argued that the teen’s constitutional rights had been violated.

According to Carter, Williams was sent to the Glen Mills School for Boys after being involved in a fire incident that resulted in the destruction of a barn. A school that had been in operation for 193 years closed its doors in 2019 following an extensive investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer. The investigation had uncovered allegations of child abuse that spanned several decades.

Samuel Lemon, an author and educator, has been aware of this case since childhood due to his great-grandfather, William H. Ridley, defending Williams during the trial. Ridley, the sole Black lawyer in Delaware County at that time, was only compensated $10 for the trial, without any assistance for investigators or experts. He went head-to-head with a group of 15.

After conducting thorough research on the case, Lemon meticulously examined the 300-page trial transcript. During this process, Lemon discovered several issues with the evidence presented, such as documents that inaccurately stated Williams’ age as 18 instead of 16. Additionally, Lemon uncovered a troubling history of abuse involving the husband.

Marrone stated that the Williams family, along with nine other exonerees, all Black men, gathered at the podium on Monday to assert their right to seek damages. Jimmy Dennis and Michael White of Philadelphia express their strong belief that there should be widespread concern regarding the treatment of innocent individuals by law enforcement, prosecutors, and others in the justice system, both in the present day and throughout history.

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