Justice Denied

George Stinney, Jr. was born in 1929 in South Carolina. His hometown was segregated and white and black residents rarely had any contact. When two white girls came upon George and his sister, they asked where they might find some flowers. The two girls never made it home that day. They were later found dead in a ditch from blows to their heads.

Since the girls were found in a ditch on the black side of town, police assumed they were killed by a black person. When a witness came forward to say the girls were seen talking to George Stinney, George was arrested. He was 14 years old.

George was interrogated for hours without an attorney. His parents were not allowed to see him. Police claimed that George confessed to the murder although they gave conflicting stories at his trial. No written confession was ever produced.

The police moved George to another location claiming they were afraid of lynching. As a result, his parents were never allowed to see him.

One month after the arrest, George’s trial began. He was represented by the local tax commissioner who was running for public office. George’s attorney did not cross-examine any witnesses and offered no defense. The trial took 2.5 hours.

The courtroom was filled with 1,000 white Americans with no African Americans allowed to attend the trial. The jury was all white since no African Americans were allowed on the jury rolls.

The jury found George guilty in 10 minutes. There was no transcript produced and George’s attorney did not appeal the verdict. George was sentenced to death by electrocution. Appeals to the Governor for a stay of the execution were denied.

George was too small to fit in the electrocution chair so a Bible was used to boost him up. He was electrocuted 86 days after he was arrested, becoming the youngest person ever executed in America.

In 2004, a local historian and attorneys worked to secure George a new trial. The original trial was vacated. A much more likely suspect in the girls’ death was identified, but the case was too old to pursue further.

Was justice done? Clearly not. Just imagine how the evils of prejudice can infect an entire community: the police, the court system, and local citizens who never demanded fairness. One has to wonder how an entire community can live with their conscience in a case such as this.

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“It was like a cloud just moved away.” – Katherine Robinson (George Stinney’s sister upon hearing that her brother had been exonerated)

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