Mary Emma Thames

George Stinney Jr, a 14-year-old African American boy, was executed in South Carolina for the murder of two girls in 1944. Mary Emma Thames and Betty June Binnicker’s bodies were discovered in a shallow ditch near the railroad tracks. People in the town of Alcolu, where it occurred, were shocked because they had been looking for the girls the day before their bodies were discovered. When the girls did not return home the previous day, search teams were formed to find them.

Both girls were severely beaten until their skulls cracked while collecting flowers. They had been beaten to death with a railroad spike, resulting in severe blunt force trauma. The spike was placed close to their bodies.

George Stinney became a suspect

When the bodies of the girls were discovered near where Stinney lived with his parents, he became an immediate suspect. It was reported that Mary and Bethy stopped riding their bikes together to ask Stinney and his sister, Aime, where they could get yellow maypops. Passionflowers were known as maypop in the area.

That was the last time the girls were seen. They were later discovered dead. Stinney’s situation was exacerbated by the fact that he was one of the last people to see them. Some witnesses said they saw Stinney and his sister picking wild flowers with the girls.However, his sister maintained that Stinney was with her watching over their father’s cows when the girls went missing.

Stinney and his brother were both arrested right away, but his brother was later released. However, the police proceeded to question Stinney while his parents were not present. Although the police claimed he confessed to the murders, other prisoners revealed that he maintained his innocence.

There was no written confession and no physical evidence linking Stinney to the crime. Despite his gentle demeanor during questioning, it appeared he had no idea how much trouble he was in. He was said to be calm, respectful, and polite.

In a 1944 wire service article, a Sheriff declared that Stinney, whom he referred to as “George Junius,” had confessed and led the officers to a “hidden piece of iron.”

Stinney’s mother was allowed to see him a few weeks after his arrest. She revealed that he admitted to being terrified and that he did not commit the alleged crime. Unfortunately, that was the last time she saw her son alive. There was no official word on whether he had been tried or convicted. She saw her son again after she was invited to claim his body after his execution.

The trial

George Stinney Jr (third from the left), entering South Carolina’s death house at the State prison in Columbia

Stinney confessed and was put on trial for the heinous murder of the two white girls. He was found guilty by an all-white jury. There was no transcript of the brief trial, and the Jury took only ten minutes to decide that the young boy should be executed. It was stated that no appeal was possible.

After a two-hour trial, a sentence was handed down in 10 minutes. The parents of Stinney were barred from entering the courtroom. According to the court document, “…be electrocuted until your body is dead in accordance with the law.” And may God have mercy on you.”

A white court-appointed defense attorney had handled Stinney’s case. According to reports, the attorney did not present evidence or call witnesses to testify in his client’s defense.

There were no black people allowed in the courtroom. Stinney was sentenced to death by electric chair despite the lack of additional proof or physical evidence linking him to the crime.

Stinney was imprisoned for 81 days before his execution, and his parents were only allowed to visit him once. He was escorted to an adult-sized electric chair at Columbian Penitentiary three months after the murder and executed. His 5-foot-1-inch, 95-pound frame made no difference. Even though the chair’s straps were left loose to indicate that it was intended for larger defendants, books were placed on it to accommodate Stinney’s small frame.

Stinney convulsed when the switch was flipped, and about 40 witnesses saw his face. He was only 14 years old at the time and is still the youngest person executed in the United States in the twentieth century.

George Stinney’s case was re-opened several years later

Several decades later, the validity of Stinney’s confession, the question of whether he was guilty, and the judicial process of his execution have all been heavily criticized. Several requests to re-open the case were made over the years due to its many flaws and perceived injustice.

Stinney’s family had also gone through hell as a result of everything that had happened following his arrest and due to the drastic change in events. His trial and death resulted in a lot of discrimination for his family because they were chased out of Alcolu and never returned. Stinney’s father was fired from his job at a local lumber yard shortly after his son was arrested. The family members were evicted from their home and forced to flee town without even packing.

While Stinney couldn’t be brought back to life, his family sought to clear his name. In 2013, his family petitioned for a new trial.

The murder conviction was overturned seventy years later

Katherine Robinson, one of Stinney’s sisters, testifying to what she remembers from the day of his arrest.

Stinney was exonerated after his murder conviction was overturned by a South Carolina judge in 2014. Stinney’s lawyer, according to Judge Carmen Mullen, did not properly cross-examine his accusers. There were also few or no witnesses.

Amie Rufner, Stinney’s sister, testified that her brother was with her at home at the time the girls were murdered. There was no way he could have killed them if he was at home with his family.

Wilford “Johnny” Hunter, Stinney’s cellmate, also revealed that the boy claimed he did not murder the girls. Stinney had said, in Hunter’s words, “Johnny, I didn’t, didn’t do it… Why would they execute me for something I did not do?”

Judge Carmen Mullen noted after several months that Stinney’s sentence was cruel and unusual. She admitted that a violation of the victim’s procedural due process rights tainted his prosecution. The prosecution and trial were both fundamentally flawed. Stinney’s confession was almost certainly coerced and thus inadmissible. The prosecution had also failed to protect Stinney’s constitutional rights from the moment he was arrested until his death by electrocution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *