George Stinney was just 14 years old when a South Carolina jury found him guilty of killing two girls in a trial that lasted less than a day.
The teenager was put to death in the electric chair, with phone books placed on the seat because he was too short to reach the electrodes.
The case became one of the defining moments of the early Civil Rights Movement, and now nearly 70 years later George Stinney could finally have his proper day in court.
Supporters are planning to argue that his 1944 conviction of killing a 7-year-old and 11-year-old girl lacked sufficient evidence. That evidence, which includes a confession that was critical in the conviction, are gone along with a transcript of the trial.
“(The police) were looking for someone to blame it on, so they used my brother as a scapegoat,” said his sister, 77-year-old Amie Ruffner.
Layers working on Stinney’s behalf plan to introduce evidence collected from family members showing that the boy was not near the girls when the killing took place. They also have evidence from a cellmate who said George Stinney never confessed to the crime, and testimony of a pathologist who disputes the autopsy of one of the victims.
After Stinney’s execution, his family buried him in an unmarked grave to avoid desecration.
“If we had allowed a stone to be there, and someone would have found out where my brother was, they probably would have dug his grave up and thrown him to the wolves,” Ruffner said.
Not everyone is in favor of a new trial for George Stinney, however. Relatives of the 11-year-old girl said he was a known bully who tried to fight people who came too close to his family’s lawn where their cow grazed.