Since The Exonerated is an exciting addition to the Spoleto line up this year, we thought we’d take a look at an exoneration that made headlines in South Carolina recently.
In 1944 an African American teenager named George Stinney Jr. was arrested and charged with the murder of two white girls, ages 11 and 7. Less than two months later, Stinney was executed at the age of 14 after being convicted by an all-white jury. He was the youngest defendant executed in the 20th Century in the United States.
According to latimes.com, “the Stinney case has been cited by civil rights lawyers as one of the South’s most blatant examples of racially biased Jim Crow justice. The all-male jury took just 10 minutes to convict the 14-year-old. That same day, George Stinney was sentenced to die.”
There were many blatant flaws in the investigation and trial, one of which being that Stinney was separated from his parents with no lawyer at such a young age, and was never read his rights. It is believed that he was forced in to a confession.
South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen vacated Stinney’s conviction, stating, “It is highly likely that the defendant was coerced into confessing to the crimes due to the power differential between his position as a 14-year-old black male apprehended and questioned by white, uniformed law enforcement in a small, segregated mill town in South Carolina.”
Mullen also stated that Stinney’s lawyer did “little to nothing” to defend the teenager. No appeal was filed after the Court’s decision, which is shocking considering the 14-year old was electrocuted only 53 days after being convicted.
According to latimes.com, the 2014 hearing “focused on whether George was afforded due process, not whether evidence exists that someone else killed the girls.” It was determined that there were “fundamental, constitutional violation of due process.”
Stinney is survived by three siblings, all of whom have maintained his innocence for over 70 years.