George Stinney, an African-American youth, was executed in 1944 at the age of 14 for the double murder of two white girls.
When Stinney was strapped into an execution chamber in South Carolina, witnesses said that an electrode was too big for his legs. He had walked in carrying a Bible under his arm. A few seconds later, that very Bible would be used as a booster seat in the electric chair.
At just 5-foot-1, Stinney weighed 90 pounds. He was so small that the adult face-mask worn by adult death row inmates slipped off after the first surge of electricity hit him, revealing “his wide-open, tearful eyes and saliva coming from his mouth,” Raw Story reports, adding that “[a]fter two more jolts of electricity, the boy was dead.”
“During the execution, the surges of electricity made Stinney’s body shake, and his left hand broke free from the buckle holding him down,” the site adds.
This week, Judge Carmen Mullen threw out the conviction of George Stinney, 70 years after his execution. Mullen found the conviction “shocking.”
“I can think of no greater injustice,” the judge wrote.
Aside from the lack of physical evidence — the entire conviction, made by an all-white South Carolina jury in the days of Jim Crow laws, was predicated on the confession Stinney had made to taking a railroad spike and bludgeoning two little girls to death with it — Judge Mullen found it disturbing that the entire time from conviction to execution was 81 days.
(Stinney’s attorneys didn’t file an appeal, and his so-called confession wasn’t even formally recorded or written down.)
Amie Ruffner, Stinney’s sister, also claimed she was with her brother the day that it happened, and that she knew he wasn’t responsible. She celebrated the judge’s ruling in comments to ABC News.
“His name has already been cleared in Heaven, but I wanted it to be cleared here on Earth,” she said.
While Stinney’s case is one most competent defense attorneys would have an easy time defending, not everyone was happy with the decision, particularly surviving family members of Betty June Binnicker.
“I was just truly shocked. And then I got angry,” said Frankie Bailey Dyches, Binnicker’s niece. “Betty June’s head was split from the top all the way down to her neck, where she was trying to get away and he slammed that piece of iron into her skull. Her brains were oozing out. My grandfather stood at that casket and cried and cried and cried.”
This video from earlier in 2014 shows Dyches explaining her outrage further, including a story in which George Stinney supposedly led police to the murder weapon.
What do you think really happened that day in Alcolu, South Carolina, readers? And did Judge Mullen make the right decision in throwing out the conviction of George Stinney? Sound off in our comments section.