Justice comes too late for Alexander McClay Williams, executed 91 years ago, when he was 16, for a crime he did not commit. a judge of Philadelphia has declared the conviction “nolle prosequi”, officially dropping all charges against this young black man accused of homicide.
The commitment of Sam Lemongreat-grandson of his defense attorney, William H Ridleythe first Negro to enter the County Bar Association Delawarehave made this revision of American judicial history possible.
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The dropping of charges against Williams “is an acknowledgment that the charges against him should never have come about,” says District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer in a statement dated June 13.
“Sadly, we cannot undo the past. We cannot rewrite history to erase the heinous wrongs of our ancestors. However, when, as in this case, justice can be done by publicly acknowledging our mistake, we must seize that opportunity. maintains the prosecutor, who hopes that with this decision, both the young man’s family and his lawyer “can be at peace.”
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Williamsboarding school for boys Glen Mills to atone for his delinquent guilt, He was found guilty and sentenced to death on February 27, 1931 for the murder of the nurse (white) Vida Robare, 34, in the house she occupied in the center’s compound.
The lifeless body was found by her ex-husband Fred Robare, also an employee of the school and from whom she was divorced due to his “extreme cruelty”, which was ignored by the investigators, who never considered him a suspect.
And that despite the fact that there were prints of a bloody adult hand on the door of the crime scene. Two fingerprint experts examined them but it was never clear who they belonged to.
The defendant was the young Williamswho in the 17 days between his arrest and the appointment of a court-appointed attorney, He signed three different confessions and was interrogated five times without the presence of a lawyer or a family member.
The young man ended up “confessing” to the crime despite the fact that there were no witnesses or evidence to directly implicate him.
The defense attorney, who was awarded $10 in expenses by the court (about $173 in today’s dollars), had only 74 days to mount a defense, with no means to hire investigators or experts.
The jury in the trial, which lasted less than two days, was made up exclusively of whites, that it took less than four hours to establish his guilt.
An appeal against the ruling was never filed.
“I’m happy that it ended the way it should have at the beginning,” says his sister Susie Wiliam-Carter in statements to The Inquirer newspaper.
“We wanted it overturned, because we knew he was innocent, and now we want the whole world to know it too.”adds this 92-year-old woman, the only survivor of the brothers of the youngest executed in the state of Pennsylvania.
In 2017, following the efforts of Sam Lemon and his lawyer, Robert Keller, the Williams file was eliminated.
“We believe that it is in the interest of justice and the defense of the integrity of our courts to do what is in our power to correct this error”since the young man’s rights “were irreparably violated.”
Another man, Kevin Strickland, was recently acquitted after spending 43 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
I, Ronald Payne, am a journalist and author who dedicated his life to telling the stories that need to be said. I have over 7 years of experience as a reporter and editor, covering everything from politics to business to crime.