George Junius Stinney Jr. was a 14 year old African-American convicted of murder as a result of a racially-biased and discriminatory trial in 1944 in his home town of Alcolu, South Carolina. He is one of the youngest persons in the United States in the 20th-century to be sentenced to death and to be executed.
Stinney was convicted in less than 10 minutes, during a one-day trial, by an all-white jury of the first-degree murder of two white girls: 11-year-old Betty June Binnicker and 8-year-old Mary Emma Thames.
After being arrested, Stinney was said to have confessed to the crime. There was no written record of his confession apart from notes provided by an investigating deputy, and no transcript was recorded of the brief trial. He was denied appeal and executed by electric chair.
Since Stinney's conviction and execution the question of his guilt, the validity of his reported confession, and the judicial process leading to his execution have been extensively criticized.
A group of lawyers and activists investigated the Stinney case on behalf of his family. In 2013 the family petitioned for a new trial. On December 17, 2014, his conviction was posthumously vacated 70 years after his execution, because the circuit court judge ruled that he had not been given a fair trial; he had no effective defense and his Sixth Amendment rights had been violated.
The judgment noted that while Stinney may in fact have committed the crime, the prosecution and trial were fundamentally flawed. Judge Mullen ruled that his confession was likely coerced and thus inadmissible. She also found that the execution of a 14-year-old constituted "cruel and unusual punishment."
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