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An African-American teenager who was convicted and sentenced to death in Pennsylvania on false charges that he had murdered a white woman has been exonerated, 91 years after he was executed.
On June 13, 2022, Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Kevin Kelly granted a motion filed jointly by lawyers for Alexander McClay Williams and the Delaware County District Attorney’s office to posthumously overturn Williams’ conviction and death sentence. (Williams is pictured with then-District Attorney William J. McCarter displaying the murder weapon.) District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer then filed a motion to “nol pros” the case, dismissing the charges against Williams and formally exonerating him. Williams, who was sixteen years old when he was put to death in the electric chair, was the youngest person ever executed in Pennsylvania.
The court action was the culmination of years of effort by Williams’ family and Sam Lemon, the great-grandson of his trial lawyer, to clear the teen of the murder of his school matron, Vida Robare. Robare had actually been murdered by her abusive ex-husband, shortly after she had obtained a divorce from him on grounds of “extreme cruelty.” Williams was represented at trial by William Ridley, the first African American admitted to the Bar of Delaware County. Ridley was provided just $10 investigate and defend the case. An all-white, all-male jury convicted and condemned Williams based upon a confession coerced by police, after prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence. The entire trial took less than a day. He was executed without an appeal.
Judge Kelly granted Williams a new trial, finding that the conviction was obtained as a result of “numerous fundamental due process violations.” A spokesperson for the District Attorney’s office said the decision to nol pros the case was “an acknowledgement that the charges against [Williams] should never have been brought.”
“Sadly, we cannot undo the past,” Stollsteimer said. “We cannot rewrite history to erase the egregious wrongs of our forebearers. However, when, as here, justice can be served by publicly acknowledging such a wrong, we must seize that opportunity.” Susie Carter, Williams’ only living sibling, responded joyously. “I am happy. I am happy,” she said. “There’s no way they can bring him back, but let his name be cleared of all that. He did not do it.”
This content was originally published here.