[Editor’s Note: Welcome to the real America, the “home of the free” and “land of liberty” that provides “due process” to the accused as guaranteed by the hallowed U.S. Constitution…oh really? As the Bible says, it has 2 horns like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon. Welcome to the dark side of American hypocrisy, and only the love of Jesus Christ can save this land from it’s ugly history]
Over 67 years after 14-year-old George Junius Stinney Jr. was put to death by the state of South Carolina, he may soon be cleared of the crime that people familiar with the case say he never could have committed.
Stinney, the youngest person to receive the death penalty in the last 100 years, was executed on June 16, 1944. At five feet one inch and only 95 pounds, the straps of the electric chair did not fit the boy. His feet could not touch the floor. As he was hit with the first 2,400-volt surge of electricity, the mask covering his face slipped off, “revealing his wide-open, tearful eyes and saliva coming from his mouth,” according to author Joy James.
After two more jolts of electricity, the boy was dead.
Less than three months earlier, Stinney, who had no previous history of violence, had been accused of the crime after he admitted speaking to the girls when they stopped by a field in Alcolu where he was grazing his cow to ask where they could find maypops, a type of flower. Authorities alleged Stinney had used a railroad spike to shatter both of the girls’ heads. The boy was taken into a room with several white officers and within an hour, they said he had confessed. Because there were no Miranda rights in 1944, Stinney was questioned without a lawyer and his parents were not allowed into the room.
No written confession exists, only a few handwritten notes a deputy who was present during the interrogation. They claimed that Stinney had said he killed Mary Emma because he wanted to have sex with Betty June. When Betty June resisted his advances, authorities said, he murdered her too.
Reports said that the officers had offered the boy ice cream for confessing to the crimes.
A mob of about 40 angry white men showed up at the jail, demanding to lynch Stinney, but he had already been moved about 50 miles away to Columbia. Even though Stinney’s father had helped search for the girls when they went missing, he was fired and forced to leave the home provided by Alderman’s Lumber Mill where he worked.
The court appointed 31-year-old Charles Plowden, a tax commissioner, to defend Stinney.
“Plowden had political aspirations, and the trial was a high-wire act for him,” author Mark R. Jones wrote. “His dilemma was how to provide enough defense so that he could not be accused of incompetence, but not be so passionate that he would anger the local whites who may one day vote for him.”
Plowden did not cross-examine any of the prosecution’s witnesses, nor did he call any witnesses for the defense. His entire argument was that Stinney had been too young to be held responsible for the crime, but under South Carolina law at that time, 14 was considered to be age of criminal liability.
The trial was over two hours after it began. A jury of twelve white men [Note: no peers???] deliberated for 10 minutes before convicting Stinney. Plowden later told the judge that there was nothing to appeal, and the Stinney family could not afford to continue the case. A one-sentence notice of appeal would have automatically stayed the case for a year.
While Plowden was preparing a run for state House that Spring, he was not the only one for which the trial held political implications. As elected officials, Sheriff Gamble, Judge Phillip Henry Stoll, Gov. Olin Dewitt Talmudge Johnston, Coroner Charles Moses Thigpen and State Sen. John Grier Binkins, who were all involved in the case, were also beholden to white voters.
State Sen. Binkins assisted the prosecution and Gov. Johnston could have commuted the sentence. Coroner Thigpen had testified that while there was no evidence of rape, he could not rule it out, an inflammatory statement that would have normally been subjected to cross-examination.
Only 83 days after first being accused of the crime, Stinney was put to death.