Family of black teen executed in Pennsylvania files lawsuit nearly 100 years after his death

The family of a teenager executed by the state of Pennsylvania after he was convicted of murder in 1931 has filed a lawsuit seeking damages nearly a century after his death.

On Monday, attorneys for the family of Alexander McClay Williams, who was executed by the state when he was just 16 years old, announced they would file a lawsuit over Williams’ execution after his 2022 conviction was vacated and a new trial was granted ordered.

However, Williams was not retried posthumously and his record was expunged in 2017.

Williams’ family has long professed his innocence.

In 2022, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer argued that Williams should never have filed charges in the first place. ‘Unfortunately we cannot undo the past. We cannot rewrite history to erase the glaring mistakes of our ancestors,” Stollsteimer said at the time. “However, when, as here, justice can be served by publicly acknowledging such a mistake, we should seize the opportunity.”

Now, citing Williams’ wrongful conviction and death, his family has filed a lawsuit against the state and Delaware County. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Willams – who was black – was convicted after 34-year-old Vida Robare – who was white and a housekeeper at Glen Mills School for Boys – was found murdered in her cottage on the school grounds on October 3, 1930. body was discovered by her ex-husband Fred Robare, who was also an employee of the school.

Williams was arrested and charged with stabbing Robare 47 times.

However, there were no witnesses to the crime and Williams was never seen at the scene. Instead, prosecutors relied on confessions extracted from 16-year-old Williams.

The lawsuit notes that in attempting to convict Williams, prosecutors ignored other evidence — including that Robare had filed for divorce from her husband Fred, citing “extreme cruelty” as the reason.

Her husband was the first to find her body the day she was murdered.

Williams was executed in June. 8, 1931.

Attorneys for Williams’ family said in a statement that Sam Lemon, the great-grandson of Williams’ criminal defense attorney, William H. Ridley, discovered information showing evidence against Williams had been fabricated.

In 2022, after hearing the new evidence, the Court of Common Pleas for Delaware County vacated the conviction and ordered a new trial.

Stollsteimer subsequently dismissed the case, the lawyers wrote in a statement.

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