‘Stinney is the youngest person known to be executed in America in the last two centuries’
The execution of 14-year-old George Junius Stinney Jr. in June 1944 has sparked a discussion regarding deep racial injustice in South Carolina.
Stinney is the youngest person known to be executed in America in the 20th century.
Nearly 70 years after Stinney was put to death for allegedly killing two white girls, Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 8, advocates have taken the unprecedented step of asking the South Carolina state court to grant a new trial to clear his name, according to a report from NBC News Investigations.
George Frierson, a local historian from South Carolina, and Ray Brown, a filmmaker who is writing a script based on Stinney’s story, have joined efforts to persuade the state to review the criminal proceeding from the original case.
“We want them to consider the possibility that he was wrongly convicted and executed for something he did not do,” said Brown.
A representative for the Attorney General Office, which would be tasked with arguing the state’s case in the event of a retrial, has not received notice of the filing and has no comments on the pending litigation.
“We want them to consider the possibility that he was wrongly convicted and executed for something he did not do”
The solicitor for Clarendon County, Ernest “Chip” Finney, said, nearly all evidence and transcripts in the case had either disappeared or been destroyed, meaning it would almost certainly be impossible to prove Stinney’s innocence or guilt by reopening the investigation.
Also, there are legal obstacles concerning the pursuit of a retrial.
“South Carolina law allows a defendant to ask for a retrial if new evidence is uncovered, but it requires the motion be filed within a year of the discovery,” according to the NBC report.
The day Binnicker and Thames were killed in Alcolu, S.C., Stinney and his younger sister, Amie, sat on the railroad tracks after school and watched the family cow graze.
According to the report, “The girls wheeled their bicycle up to them and asked where they could find maypop flowers.”
“It was strange to see them in our area, because white people stayed on their side of Alcolu and we knew our place,” Amie said years later in an affidavit.
Members of the black community from the town joined a search party and found the girls’ bodies dumped in a ditch the next day. Police arrested George and his brother. The brother was later released but George was not, according to the NBC report.
Although George had confessed to the murders of Binnicker and Thames, Amie told investigators in 2009,she was with her brother [George] that day, and he could not have committed the murders.
Stinney’s attorney took him to trial 30 days after the murder.
According to the NBC report, “The boy’s court appointed attorney did not present a defense.” In addition, he did not file a notice of appeal, which would have at least delayed the boy’s execution.
An all-white jury convicted (Stinney) on the basis of what police described as a confession. The prosecution presented two conflicting statements made by Stinney: one that he had killed the girls in self-defense and the other that he had chased the girls into the woods and attacked them. No records remain of either confession, according to the NBC report.
Soon after the jury found Stinney guilty of murder, the judge ordered a death penalty, the report said.
Stinney was electrocuted on June 16, 1944, four months prior to his 15th birthday.