By Michelle Liew
(Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer)
A black teenager sentenced to death in 1931 for murdering a white woman was acquitted of the charge by a Pennsylvania Court, after decades of being fought by his brother.
Alexander McClay Williams, 16, was found guilty by an all-white jury in just four hours and remains the youngest individual to be sentenced to death.
However, after 91 years, the judge quashed the charges and declared Williams not guilty.
Williams was convicted and executed in the stabbing death of a matron at the Glen Mills School. For decades, his family contended that he was wrongly convicted and have finally succeeded in clearing his name.
“I’m just happy that it finally turned out the way it should have in the beginning,” said Susie Williams-Carter, 92, his only surviving sibling.
“We just wanted it overturned, because we knew he was innocent, and now we want everyone else to know it, too.”
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said the case against Williams was dropped last Monday, several years after it was litigated.
“This decision is a recognition that the case against Williams should not have happened,” he said in a statement.
The case became the latest recognition of racial injustice in U.S. legal history, which convicted and, in some cases, murdered innocent Americans, mostly blacks in the centuries after the Civil War of 1861-1865.
On October 3, 1930, the ex-husband of Vida Robare, a white matron at Glen Mills School for Boys, discovered Robare’s body. Based on the case, the victim was brutally killed in his residence at the school which is also a detention centre for underage offenders. The victim’s ex -husband, Fred Robare also worked at the school.
Williams, who was undergoing detention at the centre, was accused of committing the act. He was questioned five times without the presence of a lawyer or guardian, signed three confessions, though there was no solid evidence to convict him.
“In the criminal justice system, we’re in the business of making people’s lives better. That’s what we believe every day when we come to work,” Stollsteimer said.
“But as long as humans are involved in this process, there will be errors, so if we can identify issues and right those wrongs, it’s in our interest to do that.”