The family of Alexander McClay Williams, a Black teen wrongfully executed by Pennsylvania in 1931 for murder, has filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified punitive damages nearly a century later. As reported by NBC Philadelphia on Monday (May 20), the 16-year-old, who remains the youngest person to be put to death by the state, was posthumously pardoned in 2022 when his conviction was vacated and a new trial was ordered. However, rather than retrying his case, the charges against him were formally dismissed. His criminal record was also expunged in 2017.

Williams' family has consistently maintained his innocence during and after his execution. Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer acknowledged that Williams should never have been charged, highlighting the need to publicly recognize and correct past injustices. “Sadly, we cannot undo the past. We cannot rewrite history to erase the egregious wrongs of our forebearers,” he stated after dismissing the case in 2022. “However, when, as here, justice can be served by publicly acknowledging such a wrong, we must seize that opportunity.”

Williams was convicted of the murder of 34-year-old Vida Robare, a white house matron at the Glen Mills School for Boys, who was found stabbed 47 times in her cottage on Oct. 3, 1930. Despite the lack of witnesses and Williams' absence from the crime scene, a conviction was secured based on coerced confessions from the teen. The lawsuit argued that prosecutors ignored critical evidence, including Robare's pending divorce from her husband, who discovered her body and had an alleged history of “extreme cruelty” toward her.

Williams' execution took place on June 8, 1931. Decades later, Sam Lemon, the great-grandson of Williams’ trial attorney, uncovered evidence indicating that the case against Williams was fabricated. This new evidence led the Court of Common Pleas for Delaware County to vacate the conviction and order a new trial in 2022. It was after the court's decision that Stollsteimer dismissed the case, further supporting the claim of Williams' wrongful execution.