Delaware County, Pennsylvania Courthouse

Susie Williams Carter was just a baby when her 16-year-old brother, Alexander McClay Williams, was convicted of murder and executed in Pennsylvania in 1931. Over 90 years later, Ms. Carter, now 94, continues her family’s determination to clear her brother’s name. In June 2022, a Delaware County, Pennsylvania judge agreed that law enforcement had disregarded evidence and coerced Mr. Williams into signing multiple false confessions. All charges against Mr. Williams were posthumously dismissed and then-Governor Tom Wolf apologized to his family, calling Mr. Williams’ execution “an egregious miscarriage of justice.” Mr. Williams’ family has now filed suit against Delaware County and the estates of the detective involved in his case, seeking punitive damages for Mr. Williams wrongful conviction and execution. “The next step to bring is justice,” Ms. Carter said.

Mr. Williams’ arrest occurred after the 1930 murder of Vida Robare, a white matron at the reform school he attended. Despite Mr. Williams’ initial denials of involvement, he was interrogated without a lawyer or parent and eventually was coerced into falsely confessing to the murder. Critical evidence, including a bloody adult handprint that did not match Mr. Williams, and the fact of Ms. Robare’s recent divorce from an abusive ex-husband, were overlooked by investigators. An all-white jury convicted Mr. Williams of capital murder and he was sent to the electric chair on June 8, 1931.

Ms. Carter recalled the impact of her brother’s execution on her family, expressing sorrow over the pain her parents endured. “It breaks my heart when I think of all the things that my mother and father went through,” she said. With knowledge that her brother confessed to the crime, Ms. Carter had assumed he was guilty until Mr. Lemon presented her with his newly discovered research. Mr. Carter likened her brother’s prolonged injustice to the biblical story of Cain and Abel, saying, “my brother’s blood must have cried out all these years. And he finally got it answered.”