Family Files Lawsuit Decades After Teen’s Execution in Pennsylvania

The family of Alexander McClay Williams, who was executed in 1931 at the age of 16, has filed a lawsuit nearly 100 years after his death. Williams, the youngest person ever executed in Pennsylvania, was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1930. His conviction was vacated in 2022.

Despite overturning his conviction, Williams was never retried, and his record was expunged in 2017. His family has long asserted his innocence.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer acknowledged the injustice in 2022 when dismissing the charges, stating that while the past cannot be changed, it is crucial to recognize and correct historical wrongs.

Citing Williams’ wrongful conviction and execution, his family is now suing the state of Pennsylvania and Delaware County for unspecified punitive damages.

Williams, a Black teenager, was convicted of murdering Vida Robare, a white house matron at the Glen Mills School for Boys. Robare was found dead in her cottage in 1930. Williams was charged with her murder based on coerced confessions, despite no witnesses placing him at the scene.

The lawsuit argues that prosecutors ignored crucial evidence, including Robare’s tumultuous relationship with her husband, Fred Robare, who discovered her body and from whom she had filed for divorce citing “extreme cruelty.”

New evidence, uncovered by Sam Lemon, the great-grandson of Williams’ trial attorney, William H. Ridley, revealed that the evidence against Williams was fabricated. In 2022, the Court of Common Pleas for Delaware County vacated Williams’ conviction and ordered a new trial, which was subsequently dismissed by Stollsteimer after reviewing the new evidence.

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