Lawsuit filed by family of Black teen wrongfully convicted and executed in 1931

Francis Akhalbey May 22, 2024
Photo of Alexander McClay Williams from a 1930 edition of New York Daily News. (Fair use)

A lawsuit has been brought against the state of Pennsylvania and Delaware County by the family of a Black 16-year-old boy who was wrongfully convicted of murder and executed in 1931. Per NBC 10, the lawsuit filed by the family of Alexander McClay Williams comes after a court in 2022 vacated his conviction and ordered a new trial.

There was, however, no posthumous retrial for Williams’ case, and a judge in 2017 expunged his criminal record. Williams was executed by the state after an all-White jury found him guilty of murdering a White woman identified as 34-year-old Vida Robare. Williams’ family has, however, maintained his innocence. 

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer also admitted that the charges shouldn’t have even been initially filed against Williams when his charges were being dismissed in 2022.

“Sadly, we cannot undo the past. We cannot rewrite history to erase the egregious wrongs of our forebearers,” Stollsteimer said at the time. “However, when, as here, justice can be served by publicly acknowledging such a wrong, we must seize that opportunity.”

The announcement of the lawsuit was made by the family’s attorneys on Monday, and the plaintiffs are seeking unspecified punitive damages for Williams’ wrongful conviction and execution.

“They murdered him,” 94-year-old Susie Williams Carter, who is Williams’ last surviving sibling, said at Monday’s press conference, The Associated Press reported. “They need to pay for killing my brother.”

On October 3, 1930, Robare’s body was found at the Glen Mills School for Boys where she worked as a house matron. The deceased woman’s ex-husband, Fred Robare, is said to have found her body in her cottage, NBC 10 reported.

Robare was reportedly stabbed 47 times and Williams was arrested and charged in connection with her killing. But no witness was linked to the murder and Williams was not even spotted at the crime scene. Prosecutors rather built their case around confessions that Williams was forced to make.

But the lawsuit pinpoints that prosecutors while looking into Williams’ case brushed off other evidence such as Robare’s divorce filing from her ex-husband. The deceased woman had filed for divorce from Fred on the grounds of “extreme cruelty.”

Fred also worked at the school and was the individual who initially discovered his ex-wife’s body. Fred was said to have had a history of domestic violence against her and was the last person seen with her, yet no one considered him a suspect in her murder, Face2Face Africa reported when Williams’ murder conviction was dismissed. Authorities executed the Black teen on June 8, 1931.

Sam Lemon, the great-grandson of Williams’ criminal trial attorney, ultimately gathered information that proved authorities had fabricated the evidence brought against the Black teen, attorneys for the 16-year-old’s family said in a statement. 

“This tragedy haunted the family, haunted the parents, haunted Susie, haunted (trial lawyer) William Ridley and his family,” Joseph Marrone, an attorney for Williams’s family, said at Monday’s press conference, per The Associated Press. “There was nothing to connect him to the murder. He was a convenient Black boy at the hands of these detectives and this prosecutor.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 22, 2024


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