Monday, May 15, 2017

Justice for Alexander McClay Williams

It took a lot longer than it should have, but justice has finally been meted out in the case of Alexander McClay Williams.

Last week Delaware County Judge John Capuzzi vacated the conviction of the 16-year-old who was put to death back in 1931 for the stabbing death of a matron at Glen Mills School.

McClay Williams became the youngest person ever executed in Pennsylvania, a seeming rush to judgment in a case that continues to confound - and sadden - more than eight decades later.

Importantly, while Judge Capuzzi's ruling vacated the criminal record of McClay Williams, it keeps the court file and administrative docket intact.

Why is that so important?

So that this kind of injustice might never happen again.

Longtime Delco educator Sam Lemon teamed with defense attorney Robert Keller in championing the cause of McClay Williams.

"We wanted the criminal record expunged and at the same time we wanted the court file and docket to remain so that we have a historical record of the case," Keller said. "We want the public to be aware of the trial and for them to be able to view the timeline from the date of conviction, and the time of arrest, and how quickly he was put to death."

Family members remain convinced McClay was wrongly convicted, and while expungement does erase his conviction, it does not touch on the matter of his guilt or innocence.

They vow to continue the fight.

They say the wheels of justice turn slowly.

In the case of Alexander McClay Williams, they likely moved too fast - before grinding to a halt.

Those who argue that justice delayed is justice denied no doubt would take heart in the speed with which justice was meted out in the case. In less than a year, Williams was tried and convicted in less than a year, found guilty in the grisly slaying in which Glen Mills matron matron Vida Robare, 34, stabbed 47 times with an icepick in October 1930. Her body was found in the second-floor bedroom of her on-site cottage. She also suffered a fractured skull and broken ribs. The crime appeared to be one of passion.

Eighty-six years later, McClay Williams' conviction has finally been erased.

Erasing the stain on justice likely will take a little longer.

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