He had been sentenced to death and executed at 16 for murder: 91 years later, a court in Pennsylvania, in the eastern United States, this week recognized the innocence of Alexander McClay Williams, giving justice to this African-American and his only surviving 92-year-old sister.
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“I’m just glad it ended the way it should have started“said Susie Williams-Carter, the teenager’s sister, quoted by The Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday. “We knew he was innocent, now we want everyone to know.» «We cannot rewrite history. (…) But when justice can be served by publicly acknowledging such error, we must seize the opportunity“, declared, for his part, the prosecutor of the county of Delaware, in Pennsylvania, Jack Stollsteimer.
The prosecutor spoke in a press release following the dismissal of the case by a county judge on Monday, in favor of Alexander McClay Williams, after years of proceedings.
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“This decision is the recognition that the charges against him should never have been“, added the prosecutor, recalling that the teenager, executed on February 27, 1931, remained the youngest boy in the history of this State to undergo the death penalty.
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, had found his wife’s body, “brutally murderedin his chalet, within the confines of the establishment, recalls the prosecutor’s office. Quickly charged, 16-year-old Alexander McClay Williams, who was serving time at the facility, had signed confessions three times during five interrogations without a lawyer or parent present, “despite the lack of eyewitnesses or direct evidence“, adds the same source.
His later-appointed attorney, William Ridley, the county bar’s first African-American, had no resources to prepare for the trial and “the defendant faced an all-white jury, who found him guilty in less than four hours“, Continues the prosecutor’s office.
Jack Stollsheimer pays tribute to the workrelentlessly, for yearsof the boy’s sister and the lawyer’s great-grandson to show “the inconsistenciesof the file, as elements that could exonerate the accused but yet ignored. The prosecutor cites this “bloody adult male handprint found near door to crime scene, photographed by police” but “never mentioned at trial“. Or the existence of another suspect, the former husband of Vida Robare, from whom she had obtained a divorce “for “extreme cruelty”»
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