Saturday, May 25, 2024

Alexander McClay Williams: Pennsylvania. "Collective Rage" called for as the family of this Black 16-year-old wrongly executed in 1931 seeks damages following his 2022 exoneration…"Alexander McClay Williams was convicted of murder in the October 1930 icepick stabbing of a white woman in her cottage on the grounds of his reform school. Vida Robare, 34, had been stabbed 47 times. Her ex-husband, who also worked at the school, reported finding the body, and a photograph of an adult’s bloody handprint, taken at the scene, was examined by two fingerprint experts. But that wasn’t mentioned at the trial, nor was the fact that she had been granted a divorce on the grounds of “extreme cruelty.” The 5-foot-5, 125-pound Williams instead quickly became a suspect, even though his hands were smaller, there were no eyewitnesses and no evidence linked him to the crime. He was held for days of interrogation without his parents or a lawyer on hand, and ultimately signed three confessions, researchers found."


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Exonerees Jimmy Dennis and Michael White of Philadelphia said there should be “collective outrage” over how innocent people are treated by police, prosecutors and others in the justice system, whether today or a century ago. “We are deeply disgusted by the behavior of the state, but it is emblematic of what we also have went through, so we came here today to stand up with the family and stand for what we see as our little brother,” said Dennis, who last month was awarded $16 million by a jury after spending 25 years on death row, the largest exoneree verdict in Philadelphia history."

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MORE QUOTES OF THE DAY: “They murdered him,” Susie Williams Carter, 94, of Chester, the last surviving sibling in the family of 13 children, said at a press conference Monday. “They need to pay for killing my brother.” She was only about a year old at the time, and her parents, devastated, did not talk about it much. They had run a boarding house in Coatesville, but abandoned the business and left town as the scandal garnered national attention, she said. “This tragedy haunted the family, haunted the parents, haunted Susie, haunted (trial lawyer) William Ridley and his family,” said Philadelphia lawyer Joseph Marrone, who filed the federal lawsuit on Friday against Delaware County and the estates of two detectives and a prosecutor who had pursued the case.“There was nothing to connect him to the murder. He was a convenient Black boy at the hands of these detectives and this prosecutor,” Marrone said."

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STORY: "Family of Black Pa. teen wrongly executed in 1931 seeks damages after 2022 exoneration," by  Associated Press Reporter Maryclaire Dale, published by WHYY, on May 20, 2024.

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SUB-HEADING:  Sixteen-year-old Alexander McClay Williams remains the youngest person the state has put to death. He was exonerated by Gov. Tom Wolf after researchers dug up new evidence."


PHOTO CAPTION: "Sam Lemon, right, speaks during a news conference with Susie Williams Carter, center, and lawyer Michael Pomerantz, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Philadelphia. Carter is the sister of the youngest person ever executed in the state of Pennsylvania, Alexander McClay Williams, 16, and Lemon is the great-grandson of the attorney who represented him. Carter is suing the county where the Black teenager was convicted in 1931. The suit comes two years after Williams' conviction by an all-white jury was vacated." 


GIST: "The family of the youngest person ever executed in the state of Pennsylvania — a Black 16-year-old sent to the electric chair in 1931 and exonerated by the governor in 2022 — is suing the county that prosecuted him.


Alexander McClay Williams was convicted of murder in the October 1930 icepick stabbing of a white woman in her cottage on the grounds of his reform school.

Vida Robare, 34, had been stabbed 47 times. 


Her ex-husband, who also worked at the school, reported finding the body, and a photograph of an adult’s bloody handprint, taken at the scene, was examined by two fingerprint experts.


But that wasn’t mentioned at the trial, nor was the fact that she had been granted a divorce on the grounds of “extreme cruelty.”


The 5-foot-5, 125-pound Williams instead quickly became a suspect, even though his hands were smaller, there were no eyewitnesses and no evidence linked him to the crime.


 He was held for days of interrogation without his parents or a lawyer on hand, and ultimately signed three confessions, researchers found.


“They murdered him,” Susie Williams Carter, 94, of Chester, the last surviving sibling in the family of 13 children, said at a press conference Monday. “They need to pay for killing my brother.”


She was only about a year old at the time, and her parents, devastated, did not talk about it much.


 They had run a boarding house in Coatesville, but abandoned the business and left town as the scandal garnered national attention, she said.


“This tragedy haunted the family, haunted the parents, haunted Susie, haunted (trial lawyer) William Ridley and his family,” said Philadelphia lawyer Joseph Marrone, who filed the federal lawsuit on Friday against Delaware County and the estates of two detectives and a prosecutor who had pursued the case.


“There was nothing to connect him to the murder. He was a convenient Black boy at the hands of these detectives and this prosecutor,” Marrone said.


Gov. Tom Wolf apologized on behalf of Pennsylvania when he exonerated Williams, and called his execution “an egregious miscarriage of justice.”


 District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said the teen’s constitutional rights had been violated, and a Delaware County judge vacated the conviction.


Williams had been sent to the Glen Mills School for Boys for starting a fire that burned down a barn, Carter said. 


The 193-year-old school closed in 2019 after a Philadelphia Inquirer investigation into decades-long allegations of child abuse.


Author and educator Samuel Lemon had known about the case since he was a child because Williams was defended at trial by his great-grandfather, William H. Ridley.


 The only Black lawyer in Delaware County at the time, Ridley had been paid $10 for the trial, with no support for investigators or experts. 


He faced off against a team of 15.


Lemon researched the case, tracking down the 300-page trial transcript, and found problems with the evidence, including documents that show Williams’ age incorrectly listed as 18, not 16, along with the husband’s history of abuse.


“As I unpeeled the layers, it became quite evident to me that Alexander McClay Williams was innocent,” Lemon said. “This was kind of a legal lynching.”


Carter said the truth about her brother might never have been known if not for the work by Lemon and others.


“My mother kept saying, ‘Alex didn’t do that. There’s no way he could have done that.’ She was right. But it affected us all,” she said.


Osceola Perdue, a 57-year-old niece of Alexander Williams, said the story pained her when she learned of it, and still resonates today.


“It cut deep because, if you think about it, it’s still going on to this day. You get pulled over by police, you’re scared to death, even me as a woman,” Perdue said. “I still go back to my uncle, thinking how he felt … This keeps happening. It doesn’t stop.”


The Williams family, Marrone said, has the same right to pursue damages as more recent exonerees, nine of whom, all Black men, joined the family at the podium Monday. 


Exonerees Jimmy Dennis and Michael White of Philadelphia said there should be “collective outrage” over how innocent people are treated by police, prosecutors and others in the justice system, whether today or a century ago.


“We are deeply disgusted by the behavior of the state, but it is emblematic of what we also have went through, so we came here today to stand up with the family and stand for what we see as our little brother,” said Dennis, who last month was awarded $16 million by a jury after spending 25 years on death row, the largest exoneree verdict in Philadelphia history."


The entire story can be read at:

https://whyy.org/articles/black-pennsylvania-teen-wrongly-executed-1931-2022-exoneration-family-seeks-damages/

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FROM WIKIPEDIA ENTRY: "On June 8, 1931, Williams was executed in Pennsylvania's electric chair. Reporters stated that Williams was emotional, visibly shaking, and reliant on the assistance of a deputy during his walk to the death chamber, and that his voice choked with emotion as he attempted to pray with the prison chaplain.[12] He was placed in the chair at 7:01 a.m. and pronounced dead five minutes later, after one shock.[25] Williams became the youngest person the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ever executed.[26] Relatives claimed his body for burial in an unmarked grave at Green Lawn Cemetery in Chester, Pennsylvania. After a GoFundMe crowdfunding effort to raise money, Williams had a headstone installed 87 years later, in 2018, for $850 USD. The headstone is engraved with text reading, "Executed for a crime he did not commit. Justice deferred is justice denied." Dr. Samuel Lemon, Williams's only surviving sibling Susie Williams-Carter, and several other surviving relatives attended the headstone's dedication ceremony on September 29, 2018.[3]

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_McClay_Williams

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SEE BREAKDOWN OF  SOME OF THE ON-GOING INTERNATIONAL CASES (OUTSIDE OF THE CONTINENTAL USA) THAT I AM FOLLOWING ON THIS BLOG,  AT THE LINK BELOW:  HL:


https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/120008354894645705/4704913685758792985


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FINAL WORD:  (Applicable to all of our wrongful conviction cases):  "Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices."

Lawyer Radha Natarajan:

Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;


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FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions.   They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they've exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!

Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;

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YET ANOTHER FINAL WORD:


David Hammond, one of Broadwater's attorneys who sought his exoneration, told the Syracuse Post-Standard, "Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it's the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction.


https://deadline.com/2021/11/alice-sebold-lucky-rape-conviction-overturned-anthony-broadwater-12348801


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Friday, May 24, 2024

Julian Washington: Bermuda; Forensic Scientist Candy Zuleger of Florida-based Trinity DNA Solutions under attack as the co-executive director of the Death Penalty Project, based at the UK law firm Simons Muirhead Burton, says there would “need to be a review of all the cases” in which the forensic scientists - and that it should be done by an independent commission, The Royal Gazette (Reporter Sam Strangeways reports. ..“Our concern is that people have been convicted based on DNA evidence, specifically indistinguishable DNA mixtures, evidence which should never have been admitted at trial,” said Mr Jabbar. “If you convict somebody on the basis of this, that raises serious concerns about the possibility of a wrongful conviction.”…Mr Washington was convicted in 2014 of the gun murder of Stefan Burgess and attempted murder of Davano Brimmer, after prosecution witness Ms Zuleger told his Supreme Court trial that there was a 1-in-46 million chance that he was not a possible contributor to DNA found on bullet casings near the murder scene. The 34-year-old, who was jailed for life, has always protested his innocence and a hearing was due to take place before Bermuda’s highest court of appeal next month, when his legal team was to argue that Ms Zuleger’s evidence was inaccurate and should not have been placed before the jury. He was released from Westgate on May 3 after the Crown decided not to contest the case, instead inviting the board of the Privy Council in London to allow the appeal, quash all the counts on the indictment, and order that there be no retrial. Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said she accepted there was a “miscarriage of justice in his case with respect to the DNA evidence”. She explained this month: “The DNA evidence in that case was undermined by the lack of policies and procedures in place at the time for the specific typing and analysis that was relied upon at his trial.” Ms Clarke said she had “ … directed that an immediate review commence of all matters which may be affected by the DNA issues raised in the Washington appeal”. She added: “To date, over 400 matters have been reviewed. Three have been brought to my attention and none of those matters had been approved for prosecution.”


PASSAGE  ONE  OF THE DAY:  "The Death Penalty Project, which was helping Mr Washington with his appeal, relied on the expert opinion of Dan Krane, a professor of biological sciences at Wright State University in Ohio, who concluded it would have been more appropriate to characterise the testing of the casing as “inconclusive” and exclude the evidence against Mr Washington entirely."

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PASSAGE TWO OF THE DAY: "Mr Jabbar said that the May 8 Gazette article quoting the DPP was the “first I have heard about the DPP’s position”.

He said it was not sufficient or appropriate for the Department of Public Prosecutions to review its own work to see if there were other cases when Ms Zuleger may have given inaccurate DNA evidence that led to criminal convictions.

 “It could have really wide implications because obviously [flawed DNA evidence] should never be used at the trial level,” he said. “Right now, in Bermuda, there should be some serious concerns about whether this evidence has been used in other matters.” His legal charity is also working on other Privy Council appeals in which DNA evidence might be critical, including that of Jeremiah Dill, who was found guilty of the murder of Perry Puckerin and sentenced to 35 years behind bars in 2018. Mr Jabbar said any defendant convicted of a crime after Ms Zuleger gave DNA evidence at their trial, or carried out analysis, would likely want to take legal advice and counsel should be appointed to advise them. He added: “This case has implications both in terms of Bermuda but also in other countries where this expert and the protocol they employed has been used, such as Cayman, the Bahamas and parts of the United States.“ Ms Zuleger was given a contract worth almost $1 million in 2009 by the Bermuda Police Service to set up the island’s first DNA database. The BEJI said: “The question must be asked: what is the BPS now doing to ensure that the database is accurate?”

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STORY: Call for independent review of DNA cases, by Reporter Sam Strangeways, published by The Royal Gazette, on May 17, 2024.

GIST: "An independent review is needed to determine if flawed DNA evidence was used in criminal trials in Bermuda between 2007 and 2016, according to the head of a British charity.

Parvais Jabbar told The Royal Gazette that an internal review of more than 400 cases — already embarked on by the Department of Public Prosecutions, after a miscarriage of justice was discovered in the murder conviction of Julian Washington — was not enough.

The co-executive director of the Death Penalty Project, based at UK law firm Simons Muirhead Burton, said there would “need to be a review of all the cases” in which forensic scientist Candy Zuleger, of Florida-based Trinity DNA Solutions, gave expert evidence, and it should be done by an independent commission.

“Our concern is that people have been convicted based on DNA evidence, specifically indistinguishable DNA mixtures, evidence which should never have been admitted at trial,” said Mr Jabbar.

“If you convict somebody on the basis of this, that raises serious concerns about the possibility of a wrongful conviction.”

Mr Jabbar’s call for an independent commission was backed by the Bermuda Equal Justice Initiative, which said in a statement: “Julian’s release marks a significant victory for justice, yet it raises profound questions about the depth of injustice in our criminal justice system.”

The local campaign group claimed that anything less than an independent commission of inquiry would “shatter the public’s confidence in the legitimacy of our criminal justice system”.

Mr Washington was convicted in 2014 of the gun murder of Stefan Burgess and attempted murder of Davano Brimmer, after prosecution witness Ms Zuleger told his Supreme Court trial that there was a 1-in-46 million chance that he was not a possible contributor to DNA found on bullet casings near the murder scene.

The 34-year-old, who was jailed for life, has always protested his innocence and a hearing was due to take place before Bermuda’s highest court of appeal next month, when his legal team was to argue that Ms Zuleger’s evidence was inaccurate and should not have been placed before the jury.

He was released from Westgate on May 3 after the Crown decided not to contest the case, instead inviting the board of the Privy Council in London to allow the appeal, quash all the counts on the indictment, and order that there be no retrial.

Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said she accepted there was a “miscarriage of justice in his case with respect to the DNA evidence”.

She explained this month: “The DNA evidence in that case was undermined by the lack of policies and procedures in place at the time for the specific typing and analysis that was relied upon at his trial.”

Ms Clarke said she had “ … directed that an immediate review commence of all matters which may be affected by the DNA issues raised in the Washington appeal”.

She added: “To date, over 400 matters have been reviewed. Three have been brought to my attention and none of those matters had been approved for prosecution.”

The Death Penalty Project, which was helping Mr Washington with his appeal, relied on the expert opinion of Dan Krane, a professor of biological sciences at Wright State University in Ohio, who concluded it would have been more appropriate to characterise the testing of the casing as “inconclusive” and exclude the evidence against Mr Washington entirely.

Mr Jabbar said that the May 8 Gazette article quoting the DPP was the “first I have heard about the DPP’s position”.

He said it was not sufficient or appropriate for the Department of Public Prosecutions to review its own work to see if there were other cases when Ms Zuleger may have given inaccurate DNA evidence that led to criminal convictions.

“It could have really wide implications because obviously [flawed DNA evidence] should never be used at the trial level,” he said.

“Right now, in Bermuda, there should be some serious concerns about whether this evidence has been used in other matters.”

His legal charity is also working on other Privy Council appeals in which DNA evidence might be critical, including that of Jeremiah Dill, who was found guilty of the murder of Perry Puckerin and sentenced to 35 years behind bars in 2018.

Mr Jabbar said any defendant convicted of a crime after Ms Zuleger gave DNA evidence at their trial, or carried out analysis, would likely want to take legal advice and counsel should be appointed to advise them.

He added: “This case has implications both in terms of Bermuda but also in other countries where this expert and the protocol they employed has been used, such as Cayman, the Bahamas and parts of the United States.“

Ms Zuleger was given a contract worth almost $1 million in 2009 by the Bermuda Police Service to set up the island’s first DNA database.

The BEJI said: “The question must be asked: what is the BPS now doing to ensure that the database is accurate?”

Darrin Simons, the Commissioner of Police, did not answer questions about the database or how many contracts Ms Zuleger had with the BPS.

In a response provided last week, he said: “I respect the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which resulted in the release of Julian Washington.

“Up until 2016, Trinity DNA Solutions provided DNA analysis of crime scene evidence and relevant expert witness testimony locally.

“The issues that led to the Privy Council ruling relate to the methodology used regarding testing of DNA found on bullet casings in the Stefan Burgess murder trial and how the conclusions, based on that analysis, were presented to the jury.”

A police spokesman said yesterday: “The Director of Public Prosecutions has already addressed the matter regarding a review of relevant cases, which has been completed.”

There was no response by press time to an e-mailed request for comment from the Chief Justice or the Attorney-General. It was not possible to reach Ms Zuleger.'"

The entire story can be read at:


https://www.royalgazette.com/crime/news/article/20240517/call-for-independent-review-of-dna-cases/


SEE BREAKDOWN OF  SOME OF THE ON-GOING INTERNATIONAL CASES (OUTSIDE OF THE CONTINENTAL USA) THAT I AM FOLLOWING ON THIS BLOG,  AT THE LINK BELOW:  HL:


https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/120008354894645705/4704913685758792985


---------------------------------------------------------------


FINAL WORD:  (Applicable to all of our wrongful conviction cases):  "Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices."

Lawyer Radha Natarajan:

Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;


—————————————————————————————————

FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions.   They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they've exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!

Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;

————————————————————————————


YET ANOTHER FINAL WORD:


David Hammond, one of Broadwater's attorneys who sought his exoneration, told the Syracuse Post-Standard, "Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it's the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction.


https://deadline.com/2021/11/alice-sebold-lucky-rape-conviction-overturned-anthony-broadwater-12348801


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