SC Judge Regrets the Execution of 14-Year-Old Black Boy

SC Judge Regrets the Execution of 14-Year-Old Black Boy

On March 23, 1944, George Stinney was arrested and charged with murdering two white girls— Betty June Binnicker, age 11, and Mary Emma Thames, age 8, in Alcolu—small segregated mill town in South Carolina.

Prior to the killings, witnesses saw the girls riding their bicycles in search of “maypops”—a type of flower. During their search, they rode by George Stinney’s home, stopped, and asked him and his sister, Katherine, if they knew where to find maypops.

Unfortunately, that was the last time anyone had seen the girls alive. After hundreds of volunteers organized to search for the girls, they were eventually found “in a ditch filled with muddy water. Both had suffered severe head wounds.” Since Stinney was “supposedly” the last person seen with the girls, he was accused of the murder.

After Stinney’s arrest, he was held in jail during the 81 day trial with no support from any family after they were ran out of the town by residents who threatened to lynch them.

At Stinney’s “trial prosecutors called three inconsequential witnesses: the man who discovered the bodies of the two girls and the two doctors who performed the post mortem examination. Stinney’s counsel did not call any witnesses. Trial presentation lasted two-and-a-half hours. The jury [all white] took ten minutes to deliberate, after which they returned with a guilty verdict.”

After the unfair and clearly unjust verdict, Stinney was sentenced to death by electric chair. He was so small and frail that he needed a “booster seat” in order to sit in the chair. Furthermore, his face was too small to fit in the face mask, but they succeeded with securing it and ultimately executed him on June 16, 1944.

Overall he died alone, unwarrantedly accused, and deprived of his dignity and rights as a human being.

“In 2004, George Frierson, a local historian who grew up in Alcolu, started researching the case after reading a newspaper article about it, and his work got the attention of South Carolina lawyers Steve McKenzie and Matt Burgess. McKenzie and Burgess, along with lawyer Ray Chandler, filed a motion for a new trial on October 25, 2013.”

During the trial an unknown assailant was identified as the girls’ possible killer, but unfortunately he had been deceased by that point.

On December 17, 2014—70 years after the case, Judge Mullen—judge overseeing the case—acknowledged that Stinney’s “confession was likely coerced and thus inadmissible, ‘due to the power differential between his position as a 14-year-old black male apprehended and questioned by white, uniformed law enforcement in a small, segregated mill town in South Carolina.’”

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