George Stinney Jr. was the youngest person in the past century to be executed; he was just 14-years-old at the time of his death. However, his conviction was tossed by a South Carolina judge, who said that the teen did not receive a far trial in the racially divided era.
George Stinney Jr. was convicted in 1944 of the murder of two young white girls, 11-year-old Betty June Binnicker and 7-year-old Mary Emma Thames. The tragic case was built entirely on circumstantial evidence that revolved around the boy having spoke to the girls the day of their death. However, no physical evidence linked him to the actual murders.
MSN News reports Judge Carmen Tevis Mullen is responsible for overturning the case. The judge says the case was “not overturned on its merits, which scant records made nearly impossible to relitigate, but on the failure of the court to grant Stinney a fair trial.” The evidence that the trial was not fair seem to be abundant. She said few or no defense witnesses testified and that it was “highly likely” that Stinney’s confession to white police officers was coerced.
The Huffington Post notes that Stinney was executed via the electric chair after his white lawyer called no witnesses and performed no cross-examinations. The case occurred in South Carolina when racial tensions were still high. The entire jury in Stinney’s trial were white, along with both the prosecuting and defense lawyers.
Stinney’s family, including his surviving sister who is now 77, were seeking a new trial for the boy. However, with most of the trial evidence destroyed and no transcripts of the trial existing, the judge decided instead to overturn the ruling altogether. The case hinged on Stinney’s confession which his family says was coerced.
In fact, Stinney’s surviving sister said there is absolutely no way her brother could have committed the crime, as he was with her the entire day. The two had spoke with the young victims prior to their death, but Stinney remained with his sister the rest of the day; therefore, there is no way he could have committed such a horrendous crime.
According to the reports on the murder, “the girls disappeared on March 23, 1944, after leaving home in the small mill town of Alcolu on their bicycles to look for wildflowers. They were found the next morning in a ditch, their skulls crushed.” Stinney was just 95 pounds at the time of his crime and execution, which many feel makes it nearly impossible for him to have physical beaten the two girls, crushing their skull.
Stinney was so tiny at execution that he was too small for the execution chair. Therefore, they had to sit him on a booster seat created by a phone book. The boy was executed less than three months after his sentencing. The trial itself lasted just three days and the jury, which consisted entirely of white men, deliberated for just 10 minutes before bringing back a guilty verdict.