Alexander McClay Williams was 16 when he was sentenced to death for the murder of his teacher in 1930. Now, nearly one hundred years later, the murder charge has been vacated and Williams was exonerated, according to ABC 6 News. Defense attorney Robert Keller called the situation racial profiling but the execution of an innocent Black boy reflects something even more sinister about our ‘justice’ system.
Per ABC’s report, Williams was executed six months after his conviction. As you may have assumed, the victim, judge and jury were all white. Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said Williams was ”brow beaten” into giving a confession and was executed before given the chance to appeal. Stollsteimer joined the family attorney in filing a motion for a new trial so that Williams’ name could be cleared.
Though the system’s mistake cannot truly be redeemed, Williams’ family was able to find relief in the exoneration.
More from ABC 6:
Alexander Williams’s only living sibling, his sister Susie Carter, testified surrounded by the support of her family hopeful for an exoneration.
“I am happy. I am happy,” Carter said. “There’s no way they can bring him back, but let his name be cleared of all that. He did not do it. There’s no way you can stab somebody 37 times and not have any blood on you.”
You’ve heard this story before. George Stinney Jr., 14, was executed following Williams in 1944 for the killing of two young white girls in South Carolina. He was exonerated in 2015 because he was denied due process, per NPR. These cases may seem old but there are still Black people getting exonerated after execution or just moments before.
The Death Penalty Information Center found throughout the modern era, people of color were overrepresented on death row. Black folks made up 52 percent of death row inmates by 2019. Nathaniel Woods (43) of Alabama was executed in 2020 for a murder he didn’t commit. Matthew Baker Jr. (24) of Henry County, Georgia is awaiting the death sentence conviction for a crime he didn’t commit. Julius Jones of Oklahoma was just granted clemency moments before execution in 2021.
Southern states in particular have carried the impact of lynching and Jim Crow violence into how the preside over cases. How many more people have to die before they’re proven innocent?
Racial disparities are present at every stage of a capital case and get magnified as a case moves through the legal process. If you don’t understand the history — that the modern death penalty is the direct descendant of slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow-segregation — you won’t understand why,” said Robert Dunham, DPIC’s Executive Director.