George Stinney executed in South Carolina.
On June 16, 1944, a boy was bought out of his cell in Columbia South Carolina and lead to the death chamber. 14-year-old George Stinney didn’t fit in the electric chair that had been proscribed as his method of execution.
A double murder had occurred less than 3 months earlier on March 23, 1944 in Alcolu, South Carolina. Two girls, Betty June Binnicker, aged 11, and Mary Emma Thames, age 7, had been found bludgeoned to death and possibly sexually abused.
Police quickly found a suspect, 14-year-old George Stinney. The girls had ridden their bikes past his home on the day of the murder and they spoke with George’s sister. The police questioned Stinney and he confessed to the crime. He told the cops where he had hidden the murder weapon.
Recent advocates have painted Stinney as an innocent victim of a corrupt justice system. That is debatable. He may well have committed the crime. What is true is that his court appointed attorney gave almost no defense during trial. Before the 1963 Gideon v Wainwright, there was no reading of rights or attorneys in the interview. In the Jim Crow south at the time, no blacks were allowed in the courtroom and certainly none on the jury.
Stinney was also not allowed to speak to his parents or attorney after the arrest or even before the trial. His parents were only allowed one visit as he sat on death row.
In just 80 days, Stinney was arrested, confessed, tried, convicted, and executed.
Changes to the judicial system have outlawed the execution of juveniles or people who committed crimes as juveniles. In 2005, the Supreme Court decision in Roper v Simmons declared it unconstitutional to impost capital punishment on any individual who committed a crime as a juvenile.
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